The Game

(1) BASIC SKILLS

Skating is the skill that makes hockey unique and it is something that players of all levels of the sport continually strive to improve. Without adequate skating ability, players are less able to perform the other essential skills of the sport.

Stickhandling is perhaps the most difficult of the basic skills to master. It allows a skilled player to maneuver around opponents and create better offensive opportunities.

Passing is what makes hockey a true team sport and helps make the game fun. Passing gets everyone on the ice involved in the action and turns scoring into a team effort. Helping teammates experience success is what the game is all about and passing allows the thrill of scoring to be shared.

Shooting is the end result of an offensive team play and is the action that produces a goal. Many players spend most of their time practicing on shooting because they believe scoring is the most fun. Players should, however, place an equal emphasis on the other basic skills of hockey, given the fact most players generally take fewer than six shots in an entire game.

(2) THE TEAM

A team is comprised of a maximum of six players on the ice at any one time (see “penalties").

The goaltender is responsible for guarding the team’s goal and preventing the opposing team from scoring.

The primary responsibility of the defensemen (two) is to prevent the opposing team from having a good shot at the goal. The defensemen also attempt to gain possession of the puck and pass to teammates to initiate an offensive scoring opportunity.

The primary responsibility of the forwards (three: right wing, center and left wing) is to score. However, forwards also assist the defensemen by back-checking after their team has yielded control of the puck to the opposition.

(3) PLAYING ZONES

The ice surface is divided by blue lines into three zones: defensive, offensive and neutral.

The defensive zone is the area in which a team protects its own goal and attempts to keep the opposing team’s offensive zone, or the area in which they are attempting to score.

The neutral zone is the area between the two blue lines.

(4) OFFICIALS

At higher levels of ice hockey competition, three officials – one referee (identified by an orange arm band) and two linesmen – are utilized. At the youth level, two officials – both of whom are referees – are common. The referee is the ultimate authority during the game and is primarily responsible for calling penalties and determining if goals have been legally scored.

The primary responsibilities of the linesmen include conducting face-offs and determining violations of offside and icing while assisting the referee in enforcing the rules of the game.

(5) THE RULES

The playing rules of hockey are divided into three basic categories:

  • Violations that result in a face-off
  • Violations that result in a player being awarded a penalty shot.
  • Violations that result in a player being sent to the penalty box for a specified period of time.

Learn more at USAHockeyRulebook.com