New to Hockey? Here is a primer of hockey terminology
Many folks new hockey get hung up on terminology–the lingo, the hockey-isms. We are here to help!
Here are some common hockey terms, with layman definitions. It is not all-inclusive, but should help new folks understand and enjoy the game a bit better.
We have seen on Reddit (u/HockeyDawg9) folks looking to learn more about the game, and get involved. This is part of a series to help those folks out. It is our Hockey Pups series. Categorized as Pups.
Related: New to Hockey? Want to get involved? Here’s how!
If we missed one, please post in comments or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you, and we’d love to expand this list as needed.
The game: Hockey is played by two teams, while being overseen by a third–the officials. Each of the two teams has six players, on the ice at a time. The game is divided into three periods, separated by intermissions. Professional and Olympic hockey play 20-minute periods. Youth/Minor hockey generally play shorter periods. The object of the game is to gain control of the puck, and score in the opponents goal. The method of scoring in hockey are referred to as goals.
Puck–6-ounce disc of vulcanized rubber. 1-inch tall, 3-inches across (Diameter), and generally black in color. Also known as the biscuit, the disc, the rock, the stone.
Players: Teams generally dress 22 players, but individual leagues can alter that. Youth/Minor hockey often opt for smaller rosters, allowing more shifts for players.
Players on ice--there are generally six players on the ice, per team. 3 forwards, 2 defense, 1 goalie
- Forwards–1 each: center, right wing, left wing
- Defense–1 right, left
- Both forwards and defense change regularly throughout the game. They can change individually or as a unit, while game is in play or during a stoppage.
- Goaltenders typically don’t change, except for injury or special circumstances.
Officials–The third team on the ice–professional and Olympics use a 4-official system. Youth/minor, and high school hockey typically employ a 2-official system. Also known as Refs, the refs, zebras
- 4-official system: 2 referees, 2 linesmen. Both referees have the same rank. Both linesmen have the same rank. They work as a team.
- Referees oversee the entire game, call penalties, and goals.
- Linesmen call icing and offsides, and separate players during skirmishes.
- 3-official system: 1 Ref, 2 linesmen
- 2-official system: both are refs, responsible for all officiating duties. Common for youth/minor, and high school games.
- When Referees and linesmen are used, referees are denoted by orange arm bands.
Common game terms
Icing–When a team sends the puck from the defending side of the red line, past the opponent’s goal line, but not on-goal. Results in a face-off, in the offending team’s defensive zone. Call is made by the linesmen.
Off sides–Simply put, the puck must enter the offensive zone before the attacking players, or under control of the attacking team. If offsides is called, it results in a face-off in the neutral zone. Call is made by the linesmen.
Delayed off-sides–Used in most professional leagues, Olympics, college, high school, and some youth/minor hockey. This is commonly one of the most misunderstood calls in hockey.
- Allows attacking team to dump the puck into their offensive zone, while their players retreat to the neutral zone, to regroup and reattack.
- If an attacking team’s player touches the puck, before clearing the offensive zone, offsides is called.
- It is signaled by the linesman extending one arm above the head, and accompanied by a verbal ‘OFF‘ call.
- Call is made by the linesmen.
Faceoff–the method of starting play, following a stoppage. Generally takes place at one of nine faceoff dots painted into the ice. Also known as the draw.
Goal–1 on each end of the ice. Protected by the goaltender. Also known as the net, the cage, the house.
Crease–Area in front of each goal, depicted by a painted (red) semi-circle and rectangle in the ice. It is often shaded–filled-in–blue. It is a protected area for a goaltender, although the goalie is not restricted to that space.
Special teams–power play, penalty kill, extra player, pulling the goaltender.
Power play–a team playing with more players, usually resulting from a penalty assessed to the opposing team. If a team scores on the power play, it negates the remainder of the time on a minor penalty.
Penalty kill–a team playing short-handed as the result of a penalty (minor or major) assessed to one of their players. When one team is on the Power Play, the other is on the Penalty Kill.
Extra player (Skater)--when a team pulls the goalie, to put an extra skater (attacker) on the ice. Can be done at any time, but is generally used near the end of a close game.
Pulling the goalie–Commonly used near the end of the third period, when a team is down by a goal.
Minor penalty–includes tripping, hooking, elbowing, slashing, roughing. Minor offenses. Player goes to penalty box for two minutes, in most professional leagues and Olympics. In youth/minor hockey, duration is set by leagues often 1 minute, 30 seconds. Team plays short one player, for each minor penalty.
Major penalty–includes fighting, direct head contact, and other more serious infractions. Carries a 5-minute stay in the penalty box. Unlike a minor penalty, a major must be served regardless if the other team scores on the power play.
Misconduct–can be assessed by the referee in conjunction with a minor or major penalty. A misconduct is a 10-minute sentence in the penalty box. The full duration must be served by the offender.
Goaltender penalties–penalties called against the goalie will be served by a player (skater) on the ice at the time of the infraction. The goalie does not personally serve penalties.
Shift--time on the ice. Teams rotate players on ice frequently. Players can change during game known as ‘on the fly.’
Rink-playing surface for hockey. Also called: the ice, ice, rink, sheet, barn
Rink dimensions: 200-feet long, end to end. 85-feet wide, side to side. These are common dimensions for North America, Olympic rinks are larger, but not mandated. There is room for variances, at all levels.
Goal line–one at each end of the ice. Comes into play for goals, and icing.
Blue lines–one at each side of the Neutral Zone. Marks offensive/defensive zone. Comes into play for offsides.
Red line–line across middle of the ice, sometimes solid, sometimes dotted. Comes into play for icing.
Boards–structure that contains and defines the ice (playing surface) playing the puck, and the opponent, off the boards is legal and a common tactic.
Glass–plexiglass on top of boards. The glass is an extension of the boards.
Faceoff Dots–there are a total of nine dots, in specific locations on the ice. Some are surrounded by a painted (red) ring, some are not. The purpose is the same. Also known as dots, the dots, face-off spot, drop spot.
The Rink-divided into three zones:
- Defensive Zone–where your goal, and goalie are. Ends at blue line, closest to your own goal. Also called: D-Zone, Work Zone.
- Neutral Zone–middle of the ice, between the 2 blue lines. No goals or goalies here. Also called: N-Zone, Speed Zone.
- Offensive zone–where the opponent’s goal and goalie are. Begins at blue line, farthest from your own goal/goalie. Also called: Attacking Zone, O-Zone, Fun Zone.
Zamboni–unique machine designed to resurface the ice. Zamboni is also the company who invented it, although others make competitors. It scrapes excess snow from the ice and spreads water to fill in gouges and scrapes. Also known as the machine, the ‘boni.
Team tactics: These are schemes employed by teams, similar to offense and defense in other sports. The specific types vary by team, personnel, situation or any combination.
- Forecheck–pressure applied in the offensive zone to gain control of the puck.
- Back-check–pressure applied through the neutral zone to disrupt the opponent’s attack.
- Paycheck–what you get when you forecheck and back-check well!
Player (skater) Equipment
- Shin pads
- Shoulder pads
- Elbow pads
- Hockey socks
- Face mask
- Neck guard
Note: Although hockey rule books refer to the goalie as the goal-keeper, it is generally NOT used in hockey circles. The defender of the net is more commonly referred to as a goalie, or goaltender. Tendy is a contemporary term, gaining in popularity.
- Skates–clown shoes, clown skates
- Leg Pads–pads, goalie pads, pillows
- Chest/arm protector–chesty
- Catching glove–trapper
- Stick glove–waffle
- Mask–one of the most iconic pieces of equipment. Often custom painted, and sometimes very intricate.
Note: Hockey Canada and USA Hockey are taking different paths naming age classifications. Hockey Canada has increased their naming system, adding Novice and Initiation. USA Hockey is de-emphasizing naming of age classifications, opting for more generic terms U-8, U-10, etc. USA Hockey feels it is better to more closely align with classification norms of other sports. Hockey is different. The names are part of the sport’s heritage, and uniqueness. We are not fans of the over-vanilla-ation of our game.
- Initiation–Hockey Canada. 7-years old and younger
- Novice–Hockey Canada. 9-years old and younger
- Atom–Hockey Canada. 11-years old and younger
- Mite–USA Hockey. 8-years old and under (U-8)
- Squirt–USA Hockey. 10-years old and under (U-10)
- Pee Wee–12-years old and under (U-12)
- Bantam–14-years old and under (U-14)
- Midget (Minor)–16-years old and under (U-16)
- Midget (Major)–18-years old and under (U-18)