A beginner’s guide to the frozen sport

Melissa Sidebotham

The Kent State club hockey team, ranked No. 12 by the American College Hockey Association, faces top-ranked Illinois in its home opener this weekend. Coaches say the match-up will be a good judge of where Kent State will be ranked the rest of season, and they may be right, considering the Illinois team didn’t lose a single regular season game in the 2007-2008 season.

Here’s a beginner’s guide to help fans while watching Kent State take on Illinois on Friday and Saturday at the Kent State Ice Arena.

Game Play

A hockey game consists of three 20-minute periods. There are two 18-minute intermissions during the game. In the case of a tie in college hockey, a five-minute overtime with 4-on-4 play takes place.


Forwards try to interrupt the other team’s offensive rush or attack. There are three types of forwards: left wing, center and right wing.

Wings are positioned on either side of the center. A center is usually the playmaker and controls the puck.


Two defensemen, called left defense and right defense, try to stop the opponent’s attack at their own blue line. They block shots, clear the front of their goal and body-check forwards of the opposing team when they rush the net. Defensemen have to be extremely skilled in skating backward and quick in order to shift from defense to offense when their team gains possession of the puck.


The goalie’s main purpose is to defend his team’s net by stopping shots. He usually plays in or near the goal crease.

A goalie’s catching glove is bigger than a baseball mitt and is designed to quickly close around the puck. His stick has a wider blade and handle than the other team members’ sticks.

Line Changes

Substitutions are made frequently throughout the game without any interruption in play, called “changing on the fly.” Players cannot substitute into the game until the skaters they are replacing approach 5 feet from the bench.

The three-player forward line normally stays on the ice from 45 seconds to one minute. Defensemen usually play for about one-and-a-half to two minutes before they are replaced.


Blue lines divide the ice into three equal sections: defending zone, attacking zone and neutral zone. Two red goal lines are located 13 feet in from the end boards, one at each end of the rink.


A face-off starts the play of the game. One player from each team meets in the middle of the ice and stands one stick’s length apart with blades flat on the ice. Face-offs are also used to begin each period or to resume play when it has been stopped for goals and penalties.

Marked on the ice are five red circles, each 30 feet in diameter. One is at the center of the rink, and the other four are in the corners of the rink. Four other face-off areas are located near the center of the rink, with two on each side of the center line, designated by red dots.


This occurs when the team in possession of the puck shoots it from behind the red center line and across the opponent’s end line and any member of the opposing team but the goalie touches it first. Icing occurs when both teams have an equal number of players on the ice. This results in a face-off in the offender’s defensive zone.


Offsides occurs when a member of the attacking team enters the opponent’s zone before the puck. Offsides results in a face-off just outside the defensive zone.


A wrist shot is when players flick the puck over the goalie and into the upper half of the goal net. The slap shot is often used by defensemen when shooting from the “point,” just inside the attacking blue line.

Penalty Shot

A player is awarded a penalty shot if a defensive player intentionally covers the puck with a hand or other part of the body while the puck is in the goal crease. While taking a penalty shot, all players are either off the ice or on the other side of the red line.


Checking is a method used to get the puck away from an opponent. The stick check is when players use their stick to poke or sweep the puck away from an opponent’s stick. A body check is when a player uses his shoulder or hip to throw an opponent off balance or halt his progress on the ice.

Violations and Penalties

Minor penalties are given for violations such as hooking an opponent with a stick or tripping. They result in two minutes in the penalty box for the guilty player. The team must play short-handed until the penalty time is served or the opposing team scores a goal.

Major penalties are usually handed out for fighting. Other major penalties occur when one player cuts another, drawing blood, spears or thrusts a stick at an opponent. These result in five minutes in the penalty box. The penalized team is not permitted to play at full strength while the penalty is being served.

Match penalties are given for deliberately injuring or attempting to injure an opponent. The guilty player is removed for the rest of the game. A substitute may replace the guilty player after five or, 10 minutes depending on the seriousness of the offense.


A referee, wearing red armbands, calls violations, penalties and determines if a goal has been scored. Two linesmen call offsides and icing and may also assist the referee in calling violations and penalties. Off the ice, there is a game timekeeper, a scorer, a penalty timekeeper and two goal judges.


Hockey skates are made with bullet-proof skin, which is tightly woven, extra-strength nylon, like that of bullet-proof vests. The foot needs to be protected with this material because there is a chance of other players’ blades slicing feet during play.


A hockey puck is a flat disc made of rubber. To keep the puck from bouncing on the ice during play, it is frozen before each game. During the game, the puck must be kept in motion at all times.

Contact student recreation and wellness reporter Melissa Sidebotham [email protected].