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Hockey rules and regulations

hockey rules
File photo credit: wikimedia commons

By Adila Shahrin

Every sport has its own set of rules and regulations and hockey is no exception. We'll not look to bore you with the itricate details so we've singled out the 10 main rules that you have to know to kick start your hockey journey. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re only going to be watching hockey or if you’re going to start playing it yourself, this guide is bound to come in handy.

1. Only two teams of eleven are allowed to be on the field at one time.

But, there’s an unlimited amount of times a team can sub in and out at any given time. This gives sufficient time for players to rest especially for beginners! Can you imagine sprinting everywhere in that field without a break? Gosh, my legs would just give way. 

2. You’re not allowed to kick the ball.

This isn’t football so no, you cannot kick the ball. If you lose control and accidentally kick the ball, you’re not allowed to continue dribbling the ball. If you purposely kicked the ball to gain advantage, the ball would automatically be in the opposing team’s possession. If you sneakily tried to kick the ball but it didn’t gain you any advantage at all then play would continue.

3. You can’t swing your hockey stick too high. 

When you’re taking a free hit or starting a corner, you can’t back swing your stick too high as that would be considered dangerous. You wouldn’t want to hit your opponent or worse, your teammate in the process! 

Safety is the utmost important thing in every sport and with a fast-paced, exhilarating game like hockey, you’d want to take extra care not to injure yourself or any other players. 

4. No third party is allowed.

There can only be two players touching the ball at one time. If a third player interferes, it is considered as third party and the possession of the ball would go to the team whom only had one player involved in the third party.

Third party almost often involves a player helping a fellow teammate out by obstructing the opposing team from playing the ball and intercepting it. This is also a foul and will lead to a free hit for the opposing team.

5. Only one side of the stick may be used.

You can only play the ball using the face of the stick. If you use the back side of the stick, it is a penalty and the other team will gain possession of the ball. 

6. You can actually tackle someone.

But not in the rugby way of course! You cannot use your body to push the opponent out of the way or block them like in rugby. In hockey, tackling means you can play the ball and intercept as long as you don’t make contact with the other player or his stick. If you do make contact with the attacker, you may even be penalised. 

7. You can score a goal in three different ways!

There are only three ways you can score a goal - by a field goal, a penalty corner or a penalty stroke. A field goal is scored when a shot is made inside the shooting circle which is the semi-circle area in front of the goal. It is only considered a goal if a player touches the ball within the shooting circle. 

A penalty corner is awarded when a defender commits an offence within the shooting circle or outside the circle but within 25 yards. The defensive team is made up of 4 defenders and 1 goalie. The goal is only counted if the ball travels outside the shooting circle and the shot is taken inside it. 

A penalty stroke can be awarded for many reasons but the most common would be if a defender commits a foul that directly prevents a goal from being scored. In a penalty stroke, the goalie is the only one who can defend the shot and a single player at the stroke mark takes the shot. This is much like the penalties awarded in football.

8. You don’t want to be carded.

The umpire or referee can card you if you commit an offence. There are three cards that can be awarded - the green, yellow and red card. 

The green card is the least severe of all, only serving to warn the player to stop whatever he was doing. The yellow card has a higher degree of severity and players can be temporarily suspended from the match for a minimum of 5 minutes. The red card is the most severe of all and players are permanently suspended from the match, forcing their team to play with less players. 

9. Do not underestimate the duration of the match. 

There are two halves to a hockey match and they last for 35 minutes each. In between, there is half-time which usually lasts for 5 to 10 minutes. This means that the players get very little rest and have to be in tip-top condition for the second half as well!

At the start of each half, a player starts the play by passing the ball from the centre of the field. This is the same way play is restarted after a goal is scored. Apart from the player who is making the pass, all other players must be in their defensive half. The team which conceded the goal gains possession of the ball for the restart. 

10. So who wins in the end?

Just like most sports, the team that scores the most goals by the end of the match is declared the winner. In the event that the score is tied at the end, either a draw is declared or the game enters extra time or a penalty shootout.

Now that you’ve learned the basic rules of the game, I’m sure you’re itching to pick up the hockey stick and play! But wait, there are a few other topics you might want to take note of such as the playing positions in hockey or how to shoot in hockey


Get all these in the your head and you’re good to go!


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