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Hockey Rules: A Guide To Understanding The Game

Hockey Rules: A Guide To Understanding The Game

Many nations play the game of hockey worldwide. India, Pakistan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Great Britain are a few of the top hockey-playing nations. The Olympics, which have been one of the most watched sports since their reinstatement in 1928, serve as the sport’s apex. The purpose of hockey is to use a stick to strike a ball into a goal. A point is given to that team each time the ball enters the goal. After the game, the team with the most goals is declared the winner. If both teams score the same number of goals, the game is declared a draw. Want to know more about the game? Scroll down to read Hockey Rules: The Guide To Understanding The Game.

Hockey Rules: The Guide To Understanding The Game

The history of hockey is traced to Ancient Greece and Egypt, with roots that go back to 500 BC. Primitive wall carvings and pictures feature humans playing with a ball and a stick, striking similarities to modern hockey. But the hockey we play today has undergone significant changes. It is now played by a set of guidelines established by the game’s guardians.

Today’s hockey rules are created by the Rules Committee, which reports to the International Federation of Hockey (FIH), which is the sport’s regulatory organization.

Players & Equipment

Hockey Rules: A Guide To Understanding The Game
Credit: TheBridge

Each squad has eleven players. One custodian and ten outfield players make up the team. The defenders, midfielders, and attackers will make up the outfield players. Depending on the formation the team uses, the amount of each position will change. When a team is aiming to win or lose the game, it is not rare for them to have no custodian left at the end of the game.

The pitch measures 60 yards in width and 100 yards elongated. Two 25-yard lines and a halfway line, which run across the width of the field, serve as markers for the various areas of the field for the players. The pitch will have a goal that is 4 yards wide at each end. There is a 16-yard line surrounding the goal, and this is the only area of the field from which players are allowed to fire. The ball will be turned over if a goal is scored outside the 16-yard line.

Hockey is played with a hard ball and each player uses a wooden stick. Only the flat side of the stick is used, and using the back will result in a foul. The player’s stick can be twisted around to hit the ball in both directions. Players wear shin guards and gum shields.

Due to the ball flying in their direction more frequently, goalkeepers wear a lot more protection. Goalkeeper gear includes a face mask, helmet, padded gloves, chest pad, and leg guards. Some athletes wear face and eye masks.


Hockey Rules: A Guide To Understanding The Game
Credit: SilverSkateFestival

A goal is scored when a player from inside the 16-yard area sends the ball between the goalposts and over the line. Any use of the player’s body will be considered an infringement. The ball should be hit with the player’s stick.

The defending team lines up on their goal line for a penalty corner. When a player kicks the ball to the opposing team from 10 yards on either side of the goal line, the whole attacking team must be outside the 16-yard zone. A teammate stops the ball as it is being played back before another player attempts to score.


The team that has scored the most goals at the end of the game wins. Each game has two 35-minute halves separated by a 5-minute break. The game is declared a draw when both teams score equal goals.

A penalty corner in hockey

Hockey Rules: A Guide To Understanding The Game
Credit: FHumpires

When a player fouls inside the striking circle, the opposing team is given a penalty corner, though not usually to prevent a potential goal-scoring opportunity. The most frequent reason for a penalty corner is the ball touching a player’s feet within the circle. The umpire may still grant a penalty corner if a violation occurs outside the striking circle but within the 23-meter zone if the violation is serious.

A player pushes the ball down the carpet towards the top of the hitting circle during a penalty corner after it is placed 10m from the goalpost on the backline. No offensive player is permitted inside the Dee. When a teammate attempts to flick or fire a goal, a player must stop the ball just beyond the circle to score. 

Penalty stroke in hockey

Hockey Rules: A Guide To Understanding The Game
Credit: WisdomJobs

When a goal is prevented from being scored by an infraction inside the circle, a penalty stroke or penalty flick is given. Unlike a penalty corner, a custodian must save a straight shot from the penalty spot, which is 6.475m in front of the goal line, in a one-on-one position during a penalty stroke. 

While the custodian stops the ball from crossing the goalline with his stick and body, the attacking player tries to shoot the ball into the net.

Free hit

If a team’s opponent fouls outside of the circle, that team receives a free hit. It is captured not far from the scene of the crime. The ball must remain motionless during a free hit, and competitors must be at least five meters away.

Play is restarted with the ball on the 23-meter line and in line with where it crossed the backline if the ball crosses the backline off the stick of a defending player or the goalie. It is determined that it was an unintended move. The 23m restart is frequently used, and in this situation, the free hit rules are in effect.

However, the other team is given a penalty corner if the defensive player purposefully throws the ball beyond the backline and it does not take a deflection from the custodian on the way out.

Rules of Field Hockey

  1. There are 11 regular players and six substitutes on each squad.
  2. Each player has a hockey stick, however, they can only hit the ball with one side of the stick at a time.
  3. A goal is scored when the ball is successfully hit into the opposition’s goal from inside the 16-yard box.
  4. No other body part is permitted to intentionally make touch with the ball; it must be passed or dribbled using the stick.
  5. A player commits a foul or violates the rules when they:
  • Tries to hit the ball off a player on purpose to hurt that player. 
  • Intentionally assists in moving or stopping the ball by using a body component.
  • Uses the rounded portion of their hockey stick to strike the ball.
  • Lift their stick above hip level.
  • When players hit their opponents’ sticks to disrupt the game

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