Ice hockey – a 60 x 30 meter wide rectangular with rounded corners, surrounded by 1.20 meter high boards, a hockey puck, 12 players equipped with hockey skates and hockey sticks and three referees – is one of the fastest-paced physical team sports in the world.
A hockey team consists of 22 players, although only six players per side, usually 5 field players – two defenders and three forwards, which, however, it depends on the tactical constraints and considerations – are allowed on the rink during a game. Normally, ice hockey is played in so-called lines, which means that except for some special playing situations like boxplay, the same players form the forward and defensive lines. Usually an entire unit is substituted at once after rather short playing times, however, changing “on the fly” is also a possibility. In contrast to other team sports, in ice hockey, the goalkeeper can theoretically be replaced by a field player, but in practice only at certain playing situations such as a narrow backlog just before the end of the game or whenever a penalty against the opponent is imposed. The playing time is 60 minutes net, which means that the time is stopped at each interruption, divided into three thirds of 20 minutes each with a 15 minutes break in between each third. The objective of the game is to score goals by shooting the puck, a 2.54 cam hard vulcanized rubber disc weighing between 156 and 170 gram and having a diameter of 7.62 cm, into the opponent’s goal net. The hockey players usually and the goaltender in particular wear protective clothing and helmets in order to prevent great injuries as the puck, for example, can reach a speed of up to 200 km/h. The mandatory protective clothing should not only protect the players from the puck, but also from great injuries caused during the game. Ice hockey is one of the most physical sports and full contact and body checks are explicitly allowed. Physical arguments and the usage of the hockey stick against a player are, however, prohibited by the rulebook and are punished with time penalties.
The hockey rink in North America is 26 meter wide and therefore a little bit narrower (with the same length) as in Europe, and is divided by five cross lines in total: the red centre line, in which the main faceoff spots are placed, divides the ice in half; two blue lines that divide the rink into three parts, as well as two goal lines. The mentioned lines separate the rink into an attacking and a defending zone as well as a neutral zone. There are 5 faceoff spots placed in the neutral zone as opposed to only two spots in each end zone. These faceoff spots are therefore of high importance for the game, as the puck is thrown into the game by the referee at the beginning or after an interruption. In more detail, at the faceoff, two players face each other at a faceoff spot, while all other players have to be outside the faceoff circles, placing their hockey sticks on the ice and attempt to gain control of the puck after it is dropped between the sticks by the referee. If a player behaves too aggressively at or prior to the faceoff, the referee can dismiss the player, and another player has to be appointed. As soon as the puck is in play, the teams try to keep it away from their own defensive zone and further place it in the opponent’s goal. The goal is 1.83 cm wide by 1.22 cm tall, and the vertical goalposts and the horizontal crossbar are painted red. There is a semicircular, blue coloured area in front of the goal, the so-called “goal crease” that only the goaltender and the defending players are allowed to enter. If one of the attacking players enters this area before the puck itself is there, the game will be interrupted due to a goal crease violation, the goal will be revoked and the game will be continued with a faceoff in the neutral zone. Besides the goal crease violation, the “normal” offside occurs much more often in ice hockey. A play is offside if a player on the attacking team enters the offensive zone before the puck. If, however, the defending team puts the puck, out of their own defending zone, into the attacking zone and the puck crosses the opponent’s goal line, directly or indirectly, the referee will stop the play due to “icing” and the play will continue with a faceoff in the zone of the defending team. Should one team be in shorthanded due to a (time) penalty, the icing regulation will not be applied, which should provide the shorthanded team with a bit of relief.
While Icing and offside are so-called line violations that are penalized with a faceoff in the defending zone, there are also time penalties, which have serious impacts on the further play. Reaching a certain level, the “three-man system” that uses one referee and two linesmen, is used in term of the officials. The main objective of the referees is to supervise the game and control the players and officials, especially conducting faceoffs, which is usually done by the linesmen, as well as the calling for time penalties. It is at the referee’s discretion, if he imposes a time penalty. The most frequent reasons for time penalties are: interference, tripping, hooking, high-sticking, boarding, elbowing, unsportsmanlike conduct or roughing. The range of time penalties, where the offending player is sent to the “penalty box”, ranges from 2 minutes for single players or the team for single or 2+2 minutes for double, not too harsh fouls or offences; over 5 minutes for coarser fouls and offences that are further used with the 10-minutes or playing time disciplinary punishment, which means that the player is not allowed to enter the game for another 10 minutes after he has done his time in the penalty box or the remaining game; up to a match penalty, where the player is disqualified immediately for the remaining and the next game.
If the attacking team is in majority due to a time penalty imposed on the opponent player and scores a goal, the affected player or if more players are penalized, the one with the shortest time remaining, is allowed to go back into the rink immediately. This does not apply for 5 minutes penalties or disciplinary punishment. While the referee is allowed to penalize as many players as necessary, it has to be ensured that at least three field players as well as the goalkeeper are present on the ice. Although goaltender can commit a foul or offence as well, they do not have to sit through the 2 or 5-minute penalties by themselves but can be “substituted” by field player. This does not apply for disciplinary punishments or match penalties, where the goaltender has to be taken off the ice.
While there have been draws in ice hockey during the past years, the possibility of a draw is ruled out in most ice hockey leagues as well as at the big ice hockey tournaments like the world championship. If no team comes off victor after the 3×20 minutes, additional time, which varies from league to league and can be unlimited as well, is added. There is also a difference from ice hockey league to league when it comes to the application of “sudden death”, which means that the game is ended as soon as a goal is scored during additional time. Some leagues also wait until the additional time has ended.
If no goal is scored during the additional time, the winner of the ice hockey game is ascertained through penalty shots. Here, the puck is placed on the central faceoff spot and three players of each team attempt to score on the goalie with no other players on the ice. Should there again be no winner at the end of these penalty shots, the penalty shooting continuous until a decision is made.
This was just a short overview of the fastest team sport in the world. In an additional text about ice hockey we will discuss the history, its spreading and the strongest leagues of this fascinating sports in greater detail as well as give you an overview of the corresponding betting offer at Rivalo with the usual attractive odds.