Ice hockey is no stranger to confusing rules and regulations. Like any sport, the NHL consists of so many different rules – as they pertain to offense, defense and player/puck contact. While the league governs and mandates the rules, it’s up to the officials on the ice to enforce them. As you know, infractions or violations do result in penalties, and even fines and suspensions. However, while these are usually for more serious offenses, there is always a strong emphasis on following the rules on the ice to a T. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the rules that may be confusing at first – but do make sense in every aspect of the game.


Icing occurs when the player shoots the puck across both the center line and the opposing team’s goal line. However, the puck does not go through the goal crease. Therefore, a face-off in the defending zone of the team that committed the infraction resumes play. When icing occurs, the linesman stops play if the defending player – other than a goalie – crosses the imaginary line that connects the face-off dots in his zone. Icing is not enforced when a team is short-handed and the goalie leaves the net to play the puck. While icing is one of the most common infractions in the game – in and out of the NHL – there are several types of icing, and it’s ultimately up to the linesmen and referees to enforce the rules.


In ice hockey, an offside occurs when a player on the attacking team crosses the offensive blue line before the puck. When a team is attacking the offensive zone, the puck must enter the zone first. The infraction is delayed, as indicated by the linesman raising his arm. The attacking team has a chance to exit the zone and re-enter therefore cancelling the infraction.

Hand Passes

When it comes to hand passes in the NHL, players are permitted to stop or “bat” the puck in the air with their open hands. However, it will be up to the referee to decide if the player deliberately directed the puck to a teammate – in any zone other than the defending zone. If that happens, play will be stopped and a face-off conducted. Play will not be stopped for hand passes by players within their own defending zones. However, players are never allowed to completely close their hands on the pucks.

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