The object of the game quite simply is to strike the ball with the hockey stick and knock it into the opponent's hockey net (6 feet wide x 4 feet high, 1.83 m x 1.22 m). Typically, a low-bounce type of ball is used. For added safety, hockey gloves and helmets are recommended, and in fact are mandatory for play in many of our member leagues.
Any size or type of non-slip flooring can be used as a playing surface, such as dry-pad hockey arenas, tennis courts, or gymnasiums. All ISBHF official events are held in full sized hockey arenas (generally around 200 feet long x 85 feet wide, 60.96 m x 25.91 m). When played on the dry surface (no ice) of a hockey rink, six players, including the goalie, often referred to as 5 + 1, compete against the opposing team's six players. Extra players are usually kept on each bench, outside the playing surface, and interchanged with the six on the floor either during play or at a stoppage of play, to keep players fresh. When played on smaller surfaces, fewer players can be used during play, such as 3 + 1, or 4 + 1. In its simplest form, the game can be played without floor markings and few rules.
However, in ISBHF official competitions, regular ice hockey floor markings are generally used, including goal lines, goal creases, blue lines, center line, face-off circles and neutral zone face-off dots. The following are additional rules:
- Face-offs are used at the start of each period of play, after goals, penalties, icings, offsides, or when the ball leaves the playing area. In a face-off players line up facing each other in a designated area on the floor to challenge for possession of the ball when it is dropped by the referee.
- Penalties are called when a player commits a foul. The offending player is then removed from the playing surface for a period of time, depending on the severity of the infraction, the team continues to play one player short until the penalty has elapsed.
- Offside occurs when a player enters an opponent team's zone (the area from behind their net to their blue line) before the ball. The ball in play must cross the opponent’s blue line first before the player or any of his team-mates, otherwise play is stopped and a face-off occurs at a face-off dot immediately outside of the opponent’s zone.
- Icing (or flooring) occurs when a team shoots the ball before the player physically crosses the center line and the ball passes the opponent's goal before any player, of either team, can touch it. A stoppage of play shall occur with the ensuing faceoff taking place in the end zone of the team that shot the ball. If the goalie touches the ball, or the shot creates a goal, there is no icing on the play.
- "Floating Blue Line": expansion of the offensive zone occurs once a team crosses the opponent's blue line with the ball. The attacking team will then have half of the entire playing surface within which to control the ball, from behind the opponent's goal to the center line of the area. If the defending team sends the ball past center, the zone is reset to the blue line and their opponent must regain it as explained above.
- Scoring a goal requires the ball to be propelled into the opponent’s net, completely passed the goal line, with the stick or by deflection off the body of another player. A goal scored will not be declared legal if it has been intentionally kicked in; struck with a stick above the shoulders; pushed in using the hand, or while offside.
Games may vary in length, for example two 15 minute periods, but are generally played with either two or three periods of equal time. Where a time clock is available, there is a stoppage in play, after a goal, penalty, offside, icing, ball out of play, or goaltender holding the ball for more than a few seconds. If a clock is not available, or the time available to play is limited, running-time periods may be used, for example three 15 minute periods. In elite competition, such as World Championships, three periods of 15 minutes each of stop-time is used (“stop-time” meaning the clock is stopped when there is a stoppage of play as opposed to “running-time” when there is no clock or the game is played without the clock stopping when there is a stoppage in play).
Smaller versions of the game, played with 3 + 1, or 4 + 1, have variances on the above rules that reflect the smaller playing surface. No matter what or how, the object of the game remains the same, put the ball in the net.
Click here for information on the Official ISBHF Rulebook, as well as training materials for Referees and Coaches, including Learn-to-play materials.
Click here for information on ISBHF articles and regulations pertaining to governance, tournaments, and eligibility.
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