With the 2018 Olympics right around the corner, hockey fans are gearing up to see if the United States can bring home the gold. Fans, however, might be surprised to learn that some of the standard NHL rules are not the same in the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) rulebook, which governs Olympic ice hockey.

Here’s a quick look at some of the major rule differences.

Size of Rink

The standard rink size of NHL games is 200 feet x 85 feet, whereas the Olympic rink is roughly 200 feet x 100 feet. A 15-foot width difference may not seem like much, but visually the game may seem a bit awkward and the teams will position themselves differently on the ice.

Team Size

The NHL only allows for 18 players plus two goalkeepers. During the Olympics this year, you will see teams of 20 plus two goalkeepers.


Fans who love watching the players fight during the NHL season may be disappointed during the 2018 Olympics. While fighting in an NHL game will cause a major five-minute penalty, players that choose to drop the gloves during an international game will find themselves ejected from the game.

Goaltender With the Puck

Goaltenders are given free range when handling the puck during an Olympic game rather than being sequestered to the trapezoidal line when behind the goal line like during the NHL games.

Helmet at All Times

When an NHL player loses his helmet during the game, he can just keep playing. Once the players hit the ice in Pyeongchang, the must go directly to the bench if their helmet comes off during the game.

Crease Violation

Fans may see a few more violations during the Olympic games, such as crease violation. NHL regulations allow players to stand in the crease, just so they don’t jeopardize the goalie’s ability to make a save. During the Olympic games, if any attacking player stands in the crease, a penalty will be called and the face-off moved into the neutral zone.


While the NHL has tossed out the use of shootouts to end a tie game during the championship games, the IIHF has not yet made this move. During the Olympics when a tie game occurs, they will start with a 10-minute overtime period. If the game is still tied out the end of sudden death, the shootout will begin.

Penalty Shots

Penalty shots also are done differently on the international scene. Unlike the NHL rules that require the player fouled to take the penalty shot, Olympic rules give the team the freedom to choose any player they want to take the shot.

Even with slightly different rules between the NHL and the IIHF, fans are sure to enjoy watching teams from around the globe take to the ice this winter.

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