Playing ice hockey is great way to get exercise and have fun. Before you join an ice hockey team, you must have the proper skills, equipment, and understanding of the game. Here is all the info you need to get on the ice in no time.


hockey equipment

Image via Flickr by K.M. Klemencicv

You should be able to skate forward and backward, turn quickly, maintain your balance, and have good edge control. If you know how to skate but haven’t been on the ice in a while, head to a local rink and take advantage of open skate hours. If you are new to skating, sign up for a beginner skating class.

Once you are a competent skater, you can move on to stickhandling. A player with good stickhandling skills can create scoring opportunities and maneuver around opponents. You should also be able to pass and shoot the puck accurately. Practice your stickhandling, passing, and puck shooting skills on the ice and at home.

Hockey Gear

Proper-fitting hockey equipment will allow you to play more comfortably and protect you from injury. When playing on a team, the following hockey equipment is essential:

  • Skates: Hockey skates should fit snugly. If you are new to skating, have your feet measured to ensure you get the right size. In a perfectly fitting hockey skate, your toes should touch the inside toe cap, your foot should rest flat on the footbed, and your heel should be locked into the heel cup. The sides of the skate should be stiff and strong to protect your ankles.
  • Helmet: Your hockey helmet should fit closely without being too restrictive. The front of your helmet should cover approximately half of your forehead.
  • Hockey stick: Optimal stick length varies with player height. Ideally, your hockey stick should hit your chin when standing in skates. Other factors to consider include stick flexibility, composition, curve, lie, and price. For your first stick, choose one that feels comfortable in your hands and fits your height.
  • Protective pads: All players wear pads that protect their shoulders, elbows, and shins.
  • Neck guard: This protective sleeve prevents injury from pucks, sticks, and sharp skate blades.
  • Gloves: Hockey gloves are padded on the outside for protection, but also flexible.
  • Mouthguard: This custom-fitted piece worn in the mouth protects your teeth and jaw.
  • Attire: You’ll also need hockey pants, a jersey, and socks.
  • Goalie gearIf you want to play goalie position, you’ll need a chest protector, arm protector, blocker, and catching glove.

Main Positions

A hockey team has six players on the ice at a time. Each team has one goaltender who defends the team’s goal and prevents the opposition from scoring. The team’s defensemen prevent the opponent from scoring and try to get the puck away from opponents back to their team. Each team has three forwards, referred to as a left wing, center, and right wing. The center takes faceoffs and covers the ice at the center of the rink. The left and right wings play along the sides of the rink and are the primary goal scorers.


Hockey is easy to play and follow once you know a few simple rules:

  1. The ice is divided into three zones by blue lines. The defensive zone is where a team protects its goal. The offensive zone is the other side of the ice where the team is trying to score a goal. The area between the two blue lines is the neutral zone.
  2. A play begins with a faceoff and ends with either a goal or a blow of the referee’s whistle.
  3. You are not allowed to use your hands to move the puck.
  4. If a player from the attacking team crosses both skates over the blue line into the offensive zone before the puck, the play is considered “offside.”
  5. “Icing” is called when a team shoots the puck from their defensive zone across the opponent’s goal line. Icing is allowed only when a team is short-handed due to a penalty.


Penalties are called when players violate rules with their sticks or bodies. Players that receive penalties must spend time in the penalty box. Minor penalties are two minutes long. A major penalty or game misconduct can last from five minutes to the rest of the game. When a player is serving a penalty, the team is left short-handed on the ice. The opposing team is then on a “power play” for the entire penalty time. If the opposing team scores a goal during a minor penalty, the power play ends early.

Common penalties include:

  • Hooking: Hindering play by “hooking” your opponent with your stick.
  • High sticking: Using your stick above your shoulders or the top of the goal.
  • Tripping: Using your body or stick to trip an opposing player.
  • Roughing: Hitting an opponent with your hand or fist.
  • Interference: Blocking players who don’t have the puck in their possession.
  • Holding: Using your arms to hold back your opponent.
  • Slashing: Using your stick to chop at your opponent’s body or stick.
  • Boarding: Violently checking a defenseless opponent into the boards.
  • Charging: Taking multiple strides, jumping, or leaving your feet to violently slam into another player.

Common Phrases

Hockey has a language of its own. Make sure you are up to speed on the lingo. A few of the most commonly used phrases include:

  • Assist: Aka Apple, a credit given to one or two players who helped another player get a goal.
  • Crease: The half-circle in front of a goal.
  • Drop Pass: When you make a pass behind your body to a teammate.
  • Enforcer: A tough player who defends teammates against the opposition.
  • Faceoff: The start of play when a referee drops the puck between two opposing players.
  • Five-hole: The area between the goalie’s legs.
  • Freezing the puck: Trapping the puck to prevent play.
  • Sin bin: Another name for the penalty box.
  • Wrap around: Scoring a goal from behind the net.

Finding a Team

To find a team, check out your local ice rinks for pickup games and beginner hockey leagues. You can also use websites such as Hockey Finder or USA Hockey to find pickup games and leagues near you.