Basic Hockey Rules Explained

The basic hockey rules that were developed in the late 1800s are still in effect today. They include the number of skaters allowed during play, the icing rule, offside and penalty calls.

How Many Skaters Allowed
There are five skaters allowed on the ice from each team: three forwards and two defensemen. The sixth man, the goalie, is allowed to stay on the ice at all times to man the net. If a team sends more than five skaters on the ice, the results is a "too many men" penalty unless the team has pulled its goalie as it might during a delayed penalty or in the final minutes of a close game.

Ice Dimensions and Zones
The size of a regulation hockey rink is 200 feet by 85 feet. There are boards that surround the rink with each corner rounded out with a 28 foot radius. The boards have to be at least 40 inches high but can't be beyond 48 inches high.

Basic hockey rules designate three zones on the ice, the defending zone, the attacking zone and the neutral zone. The attacking and defending zones are bordered by the blue line, of which there are two. The only way to differentiate the attacking and defending zones depends on where the puck is. If the puck is in the zone where your goalie is guarding the net, then that is the defending zone, if the puck is on the opposite goalies area then that is the attacking zone. The zone in between the blue lines is called the neutral zone.

Basic Hockey Rules of Offsides and Icing
The offside and icing calls are the most common reasons why play is stopped. When the puck is in a team's defending zone, the team's main goal is to get possession of the puck and either skate it or skillfully pass it out of their zone, through the neutral zone and hopefully into the attacking zone.

Hockey rules call it icing when a player clears the puck from his end and it goes all the way into the other team's end passing the red goal line without being touched. It is also icing if a player is in the neutral zone and dumps the puck into the attacking zone before the red center line. Icing can be waved off by the ref if the puck doesn't make the goal line, it crosses through the goalie's crease, the goalie touches it first or the team that cleared the puck touches it first. Icing is legal when a team is short handed during a power play.

Offside is when a player crosses over the blue line before the puck. The puck has to cross into the attacking zone before the player.

Penalties
Basic hockey rules factor in a number of penalties, and they are broken down into three categories: minor, major and misconduct. Minors are two-minute penalties, including tripping, hooking, high sticking, slashing, boarding, cross-checking, elbowing, roughing, holding, spearing and interference. Majors are five minute penalties that include fighting and or a spear, slash, cross-check type penalty that are made with a clear intent to injure. A Misconduct is a ten minute penalty for any other unsportsmanlike behavior or after a player gets a second major penalty in a game.

Rule Changes
The NHL lockout of the 2004-2005 season brought a lot of changes to the basic hockey rules as the NHL tried to coax hockey fans back to their televisions. The three biggest changes were allowing the two line pass, prohibiting the obstruction of players using either the body or the stick and the elimination of ties and institution of shootouts to decide the winner of a game. 

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