One of the most exciting aspects of ice hockey is the face-off. In fact, the face-off determines which team will take possession of the puck to start play. As always, an official drops the puck between the two opposing players to start the game at the center of the ice. In the NHL and other leagues, there are rules that govern all face-offs. However, face-offs can also be used as a strategy — which we will discuss in an upcoming article. For now, here are some rules about hockey face-offs that every player and fan needs to know.
For face-offs occurring at a designated attacking zone face-off spot, the two players stand squarely facing their opponent’s end of the rink. The stick blades of both players must be in contact with the nearest white area of the face-off spot. They must be clear of the center red area and ice markings as well.
Face-offs can also occur at neutral zone face-off spots. In these scenarios, the players facing-off must squarely face their opponent’s end of the ice. They must also stand approximately one stick length apart.
During any or most face-offs, placing the stick blade on the ice is also to that player’s advantage.
During face-offs, only the two assigned players from each team can battle for the puck. No other teammate on either side is allowed to enter the face-off circle. Similarly, they cannot come within 15 feet of the players facing-off the puck. All non-face off players must position themselves behind the hash marks, which are located at the outer edge of the face-off circle.
There are “T’s” on either side of the face-off circle, and that defines where the feet of the players facing off should go. They also need to stand approximately one stick length apart from their opponents.
The referee is responsible for dropping the puck to commence play after a goal is scored. The linesmen are responsible for dropping the puck for every other face-off. He or she also blows the whistle at the conclusion of a line change procedure. This alerts each team that they have five seconds to correctly line up for the ensuing face-off. This allows the two face-off players to position themselves, as well as their teammates. The official then conducts a proper face-off and play resumes.
If a player facing-off fails to take his or her proper position when directed by the official, the official can replace him or her with another teammate on the ice. However, if a player — other than the one facing off — fails to maintain his or her position, the center of his or her team can be ejected from the face-off entirely.
A second violation of this rule by the same face-off team will result in a minor penalty for delay of game. It is important to know that these rules are mandates for both teams on the ice — and only an official can enforce or retract the penalty as deemed fit.