How Many Rules Are In Hockey? [Ultimate Guide!]

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Hockey is a really popular sport in the Winter months, but it has gained popularity across all seasons now too. There are actually a lot of variants of hockey, including “street hockey”, “bubble hockey” and “bandy hockey” (yes, that’s right, it’s a sport similar to bandy)

Although the rules of hockey may seem obvious, they are actually quite complex and can vary from one league to another. The most popular hockey rulebook is the “Hockey Handbook”, first published in 1913. It consists of almost 100 pages of rules and suggestions for proper play. Let’s have a look at how many rules are in hockey and what are the key differences between different variants of the game.

The Four Staple Rules Of Hockey Are

There are four rules that all hockey players need to know and follow:

  • Face-off
  • Passing
  • Striking While Packed
  • Goaltending

The first three rules deal with playing the puck, a game element that every hockey player needs to master. A player who is proficient at playing the puck will be able to control the course of a game simply by controlling the puck. The last rule relates to how the game is stopped and controlled, which in turn affects how the game is played. When a goal is scored during a hockey game, the goal judge will stop play and go over the goalscoring rules with the teams. Once the rules are explained to the teams, play will continue.

How Many Players Can Be On A Team?

There are actually some strict regulations regarding the number of players that can be on a hockey team. A regulation major league hockey team can have no more than 6 players scoring goals during the game. This is due to off-ice officials looking out for insurance claims and to limit the number of body checks that can happen on the ice (this leads to more injuries and makes the game more violent). Another regulation that limits the amount of skaters on a team is the 2-man max. This rule was put into place to prevent 2-person teams from dominating the ice during a game. If a team consists of more than 2 men, then there needs to be a third man (called a “water carrier” or “puck holder”) to keep track of the puck while the other two players are on the ice. Before a 3rd player is allowed, the current 2 players must have had a 20 minute “change-man” period where neither goalie is on the ice and the players are able to skate around with no restrictions.

Face Off

Face off is when the referee indicates that the puck has been dropped and the players can begin skating towards it. Face-off is an important rule in hockey because it provides the opportunity for one player (usually the center) to control the puck for the rest of the game. Once the puck is in the center, the entire team will look to pressure the center in the puck-handling area so they don’t have enough time to get the puck to the net (for a goal).

Some NHL teams practice a face-off camp ahead of the season. The camp usually takes place far from the rink so the coaches can work with the players individually and also get a look at how the players interact with one another. During the camp, the coaches will focus on teaching the players how to win face-offs and how to take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses. One weakness that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had in the past is losing a lot of face-offs in their own end. In the 2009-10 season, the Leafs were 129th out of 132 possible teams in terms of winning percentage (puck drops into the opposing zone only) at 56.3%. This was primarily due to individual mistakes in the face-off circle and a lack of focus and effort from the players.


If a player gets the puck and makes a good pass, they will usually receive a pass along with the puck. Good passing allows players to start a rush or set up a scoring chance for themselves or a teammate. There are actually certain rules regarding how a player can pass the puck, including the “3-zone pass” rule. A pass that doesn’t reach the stick of a teammate within 3 seconds is considered a “drop” and the receiving team can start a rush or set up a scoring opportunity. One rule that is often broken by good passers is the “no body checking” rule. If a player attacks an opposing player without the puck, they are in fact giving up their right to pass, hence the name “check-er”. Good passers can be very dangerous players as they are able to set up their teammates for scoring chances and momentum-building rushes. This makes them valuable members of any team.

Some teams have a “passing minor” that is issued to players that don’t follow the basic rules of passing (this applies to both defensemen and forwards). A defenseman who doesn’t follow the rules of passing will get a minor penalty for “unchecked obstruction”.

Striking While Packed

Players get penalties for hitting (delivering a body check) and checking (joining a rush or set up) while their team is “working the puck”. The working the puck rule applies whenever a defensive player has the puck and is trying to advance it towards the net. While the name “working the puck” may make the game sound like an all-out brawl, the idea is to keep the pressure on the puck and pressure the defense to make a move first. If the puck is not worked effectively, then the pressure can build up until someone scores or the whistle is blown to end the action.

If a player is not careful or lacks the necessary skills, they can get hurt while working the puck hard. This is especially dangerous if the opponent does not have the puck and the hit is not clean. It is not uncommon for players to get blindsided when they are not looking out for attackers. One such example is Bobby Ryan, a Pittsburgh Penguins center who was injured during the 2017 NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1st. Ryan fell on a broken stick and was unable to get up for several minutes before being helped off the ice. While he was eventually able to walk off the ice on his own, he had to be helped by members of the medical staff for the rest of the game.


Goaltending is the official name for the position of goalie (goalkeeper) in hockey. The goalie is the last line of defense for the team and they are expected to make tough athletic saves during the game. The goalie is also responsible for keeping the puck out of their net. The general manager of the team will have the final say in terms of who will be the starting goaltender, but it is usually a collaborative effort between the coach and general manager to decide who will play between the pipes over the course of the season. One of the toughest positions to play is that of a goalie. While they are protected by armor and the sticks of the attacking players, this also makes them a focal point during a game. This makes it even more important for the goalie to stay focused and not get distracted by the physical contact and loud noises that accompany a hockey game.

Like with some other sports, some hockey players like to embellish their stats and make it look like they are doing something more than what the guidelines suggest. For example, most hockey players will try to score more than 40% of their goals from “high-danger areas” (areas near the net or in front of the net) rather than from “low-danger areas” (the side or the corners of the ice cube). This is to make it look like they are contributing more to the team’s offensive production than they really are. While this may be beneficial for the ego of the individual player, it is generally not good for the team as a whole.

A really experienced and knowledgeable hockey player can look at a team’s stats and quickly know how many goals they were actually able to score from each area of the ice. By working out how many of their goals came from high- and low-danger areas, they can get a good idea of how their performance stacks up against other teams. This is important because the stats don’t lie and they can help a player get a clearer picture of how they are performing and where they need to improve.

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