139 Hockey Terms and Rules Every Fan Should Know

A diagram of a ice hockey rink with lots of hockey terms and hockey rules and regulations on the diagram.

Hockey can be a challenging sport to follow for new fans. There are lots of hockey terms and rules that can be very complex and hard to grasp. So here, we’ll define over 130 of them for you.

So if you don’t know what the following means – the Boston Bruin’s pinching forechecker was trying to stick-check the defensemen who was on the breakout and just broke up the cycle and prevented a backdoor deflection by cross-checking the guy who was crashing the net – by the end of this article, you will; from Assist to Zamboni, we’ve got you covered!

AssistWhen a player passes the puck to a teammate who then scores a goal is the most common kind of assist, but assists are given to the last two players to touch the puck before a goal is scored without the opposing team getting possession.
Back CheckWhen a defensive player skates back toward their net when the other team has the puck and tries to take it from the opposition.
Back DoorThe area of the ice in front and to the side of the goal and on the opposite side of where the hockey puck is.
Bench minorA minor penalty assessed to a player or coach not currently on the ice. Examples of this are too many men on the ice and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Black AceDepth players called up from the minor league for the playoffs; they do not suit up for games but are there for depth and insurance in case some of the starters get hurt.
BladeRefers to the large part of a hockey stick that is used to play the puck, the bottom part of the stick that is on the ice.
BlockerA piece of equipment a hockey goalie wears on his hand that holds the stick and is a flat rectangle.
Blue LinesThe two lines that are 75 feet from the end boards. The blue lines divide the ice hockey rink into the offensive, neutral, and defensive zones.
BoardingPushing an opponent from behind directly into the boards; a very dangerous play resulting in a penalty, sometimes a major penalty.
Body Check When a player hits another player with their body (usually the shoulder area) and tries to knock over the opponent. Also known as a check or hit.
BreakawayWhen a player has the puck and is past all the other skaters on the other team and is one-on-one with the goalie.
BreakoutWhen a team has the puck in their defensive zone and is working to move the puck up the ice toward the other team’s goal.
ButterflyA technique used by goalies when they drop down on their leg pads and play low on the ice instead of standing up.
Change on the FlyWhen a player from the bench jumps on the ice and substitutes for a teammate on the ice who comes to the bench while the play is still going on.
ChargingA penalty where a player takes multiple strides to hit an opponent or leaves their feet when hitting an opponent in an upward body motion.
CheckSee body check above.
Cherry PickingWhen a hockey player is outside the defensive zone and doesn’t help out when his team is defending in an attempt to get behind the other team for an easy breakaway.
ChipWhen a player softly shoots the puck off the boards in the air.
Clear the PuckTrying to get the puck out from in front of the defense’s net or out of the defensive zone.
Coaches ChallengeA coach can challenge a goal that was scored if they think the referees made a mistake; if a team loses the coach’s challenge, they get a 2-minute penalty.
Crash the NetWhen a player without the puck skates hard toward the front of the opposing team’s net, trying to disrupt the defense and/or goalie to create a scoring chance.
CreaseThe half-circle blue area in front of the goal where the goalie is positioned.
CrossbarThe horizontal red bar or pipe that makes up the goal.
Cross CheckingA minor penalty where a player has both hands on their hockey stick, holds it parallel to the ice, and uses force to hit an opponent with the stick.
CycleAn offensive zone strategy where a team constantly moves in a large circular flowing motion and passes the puck around to each other to get the defending team out of position.
Defensive DefensemanA defenseman who doesn’t score very much or contribute offensively, but is very good in the defensive aspect of hockey.
Defensive ZoneThe area from inside one blue line to the end boards where a team’s own goal and goalie are and which they are trying to defend.
A diagram of a ice hockey rink showing the three zones, the offensive zone, neutral zone, and defensive zone, these are important hockey terms to know
DeflectionWhen a player shoots the puck at the goal, and it hits something on the way, such as another player’s stick or any part of another player, and the puck changes direction.
DekeWhen a player uses finesse stick-handling moves to go around the defender.
Delay of GameIn the defensive zone, when a player shoots or hits the puck with their stick or any part of their body, and the puck goes over the glass boards and out of play.  Also, when a defensive player covers the puck with their glove in the goal crease.
Delayed OffsidesWhen a team is in an offsides position but does not have the puck, they are allowed to get back onside or “touch up” while the game continues.

Check out our article on offsides To learn more about delayed offsides.

Delayed PenaltyWhen a team commits a penalty, the play still continues until the team that committed the penalty touches the puck. To learn more about delayed penalties, read about it here.
DiveAlso known as the embellishment penalty; when a player falls down on purpose and on his own in an attempt to draw a penalty against the other team. This can be an unsportsmanlike penalty.
Double Minor PenaltyA four-minute penalty where a player is injured, and blood is drawn; with these penalties, there is no intent to injure the player, it’s an accident. The most common double minor is high-sticking.
Dry Land TrainingAn off-ice workout, not on skates, consisting of intense physical activity.
Dump; Dump-and-ChaseWhen a team shoots the puck into the offensive zone but not on the net and then tries to get possession of the puck. Click here to learn more about the dump and chase.
Dump-and-ChangeWhen a team shoots the puck into the offensive zone, then goes to the bench for a line change.
EbugEmergency backup goalie – a team’s 3rd goalie who does not suit up unless there is an injury to one of the other goalies.
EmbellishmentSee “dive.”
Empty NetWhen a team pulls the goalie, they are left with an empty net.
End BoardsThe glass and boards that make up the end of the ice hockey rink, they are behind the goals and are 85 feet long.
EnforcerA hockey player known for their fighting and tough play more than skill; their role is to stand up for their teammates.

Read Our List of The Best Fighters of All Time

Entry Level ContractThe initial contract hockey players sign when they enter the NHL; the length and amount vary depending on the player.
Even StrengthWhen both teams have the same amount of players on the ice.
Extra AttackerWhen a team pulls the goalie and gets an extra skater on the ice. This is used on a delayed penalty or at the end of the game when the team is behind and desperate to score.
FaceoffWhen a referee drops the puck between 2 players’ sticks, they try to get the puck to a teammate. After every whistle or stoppage of play, there is a faceoff.
A close up view of a hockey face off, the ref is dropping the hockey puck in between the opposing players.
Farm Team or Farm SystemThe minor league hockey team affiliated with the NHL team, the AHL is the minor league for the NHL.
FightingA 5-minute major penalty when 2 players drop their gloves and start fighting each other.
Five HoleAn opening in the area in between a goalie’s leg pads that usually opens up when the goalie is moving side to side.
FlexHow much a stick bends or gives – each stick is given a flex rating when made.
ForecheckPutting pressure on the opposing team when they are trying to move the puck out of their defensive zone and trying to regain possession of the puck.

To learn more about the forecheck, read our article on it here.

Freezing the PuckWhen a goalie covers or catches the puck with their glove resulting in a whistle and stoppage of play followed by a face-off.
Game MisconductWhen a hockey player gets kicked out of a game and has to sit out the remainder of the game.
GoalWhen the puck goes into the net and completely across the goal line.
Goal LinesThe red lines near the end of the ice rink that go from one corner to the other, they are eleven feet from the end boards. The puck must completely cross the goal lines to count as a goal.
Goalie InterferenceWhen an offensive player makes excessive and unnecessary contact with the goalie, this can be a minor penalty.
GrinderA player known more for their physical presence than skill and finesse; they usually play with a lot of energy.  They’re usually on the third or fourth line.

Half WallThe area halfway in between the goal and the blue line, the halfway point of the offensive or defensive zones.
Hand PassWhen a player uses his hand to hit the puck, and it goes directly to someone on his team, a hand pass is only legal in the team’s defensive zone.
Hat TrickWhen a player scores 3 goals in a single game, one of the greatest achievements in hockey.
Head Man PassWhen a team passes the puck to the player who is furthest up the ice and closest to the opponent’s goal.
Healthy ScratchWhen a player does not suit up for a game but is not injured.
HeelThe part of the hockey stick blade closest to the shaft, opposite the toe.
High SlotThe area in front of a goal, between the two faceoff circles, and around or above the faceoff dots.
High StickingMaking contact with an opponent with your stick, the contact must be above the shoulders, usually a minor penalty, but can be longer. OR, When a player hits the puck out of the air with a stick above their shoulders, then that team touches the puck; this is not a penalty, just a defensive zone faceoff.

If you want to learn more about high sticking, Read our article on it.

Hip CheckWhen a player hits or checks an opposing player leading with his hip or backside.
HitThe same as a body check – When a player hits another player with their body (usually the shoulder area) and tries to knock over their opponent.
Hockey StopSkating fast and coming to an abrupt stop by angling the ice skates perpendicular to the direction the player is traveling, resulting in a cloud of ice being sprayed up, also called a snow shower.
A hockey player doing a hockey stop and lots of snow from the ice is going up in the air. The player is in a black jersey.

HoldingA minor penalty where a player grabs an opponent with their hands, obstructing their movement.
Holding the LineWhen a defenseman stands inside the blue line of the offensive zone and doesn’t let the puck out of the zone.
HookingA minor penalty where a player uses the blade of the stick on an opponent’s body in a pulling motion, impeding their progress. Click here to learn everything about hooking.
Ice TimeHow much time a player actually plays in the game and is out on the ice.
IcingWhen a player shoots the puck from behind the center red line all the way down into the offensive zone past the goal line, and the defensive team gets to the puck first, icing is waved off if the goalie plays the puck, or the offending team is short-handed.
An ice hockey rink diagram showing what icing is, icing is a hockey rule, but not a penalty.


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InstigatorA player who starts a fight, usually a minor penalty is added in addition to the major fighting penalty.
Insurance GoalA goal scored to put a team up by 2 or more.
InterferenceA penalty where a player intentionally gets in the way of an opponent or makes contact with an opponent when the puck is somewhere else. Read our article for an in-depth look at interference.
KnobThe very end of the hockey stick, where a player holds it, it’s opposite the blade, and the tape is thicker than on the rest of the stick.
Line BrawlA fight where everyone on the ice is involved.
Line ChangeAnother name for a substitution; when a line or group of players come to the bench, and a group from the bench takes their place on the ice; this happens every minute or so.
LinesA group of players who play together on the ice.  The three forwards make up a line, and the two defensemen make up a line.  There are usually four lines of forwards and three lines of defensemen.
LinesmenOn-ice officials who watch the blue lines to determine if the play was offside or icing.  They are not referees and cannot call penalties unless they are major penalties. To learn more about NHL linemen, read this.
Low SlotThe area directly in front of the blue goal crease.
Major PenaltyA five-minute penalty, usually for fighting, but can also be called for a dirty or dangerous play where there is a clear attempt to injure the other player, such as boarding. Teams can score as many goals as possible, and the player does not come out of the penalty box until the time is up.
Match PenaltyWhen a player intentionally tries to injure an opponent. They get kicked out of a game and served with an automatic suspension until the NHL makes a ruling; the team is also assessed a five-minute major penalty.
Minor PenaltyA two-minute penalty, there are 18 different kinds of minor penalties. The most common are tripping, slashing, roughing, cross-checking, or high-sticking. If a team gets scored on while shorthanded, the penalty is over, and the player is allowed back on the ice.
Misconduct PenaltyThere are two types of misconduct penalties, a ten-minute misconduct, where the player has to go to the penalty box for ten minutes, and a game misconduct, where the player is ejected for the duration of the game; these penalties do not cause the team to lose a skater on the ice.
Natural Hat TrickWhen a player scores 3 consecutive goals, and no other goals are scored by anyone else in between.
Neutral ZoneThe area between the two blue lines in the middle of a hockey rink.
Odd-Man RushWhen a team is in the attacking or offensive zone and outnumbers the defensive team, as in a two-on-one or three-on-two.
ODROutdoor Rink.
Offensive DefensemanA defenseman who is skilled or fast and contributes offensively.
Offensive ZoneAlso referred to as the attacking zone, the third of the rink where the opponent’s goal is, the goal you’re trying to score on. This is from the end wall behind the net to the nearest blue line.
OfficialAnother name for referees or linesman; two of each (four total) are on the ice.
Offsetting PenaltiesWhen both teams get a penalty, and the penalty minutes are even, often resulting in 4-on-4 hockey.
OffsidesWhen an attacking player enters the offensive zone before the puck crosses the blue line.

Read This for an in-depth look at the Hockey offsides rule.

An ice hockey rink diagram showing what the offsides rule is, offsides is not a penalty.
One TimerWhen a player passes the puck to a teammate, and they shoot it without stopping it.
OvertimeAt the end of 3 periods of hockey, if the score is tied, the game goes to overtime, where the next goal wins.  In the regular season, there is a 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime period followed by a shootout; in the playoffs, they play as many 20-minute periods of 5-on-5 hockey as needed until one team scores.
PenaltyWhen a player commits an illegal action and has to go to the penalty box for the required amount of time, examples of penalties are tripping, hooking, slashing, fighting, etc.
Penalty BoxAlso known as the “Sin Bin, “the box on the opposite side of the ice rink from the benches where players go to serve their penalty time.
Penalty KillWhen a team gets a penalty and has to send a player to the penalty box, leaving them with fewer players on the ice than the other team.
Penalty ShotA one-on-one opportunity where a skater takes the puck from center ice and tries to score on the goalie; this is awarded when a player draws a penalty, and gets taken down from behind when on a clear-cut breakaway.
Pickup HockeyAn informal game of hockey without refs.
PIMAbbreviation for Penalty Minutes.
PinchWhen a defenseman tries to keep the puck in their offensive zone when the other team has the puck, and they usually skate further in the zone to accomplish this, it can be a risky play.
Plus Minus +/-An official stat, if a player is on the ice when their team scores a goal, they get a plus +1, and if they’re on the ice when the opponents score, they get a minus -1, and the total tally is added up.
PointWhen a player gets a goal or an assist, this is a point. OR Another word for the defensemen’s position in the offensive zone inside the blue line.
Poke CheckWhen a defensive player uses their stick to poke the puck away from the offensive player.
PostThe red bars on the side of the net.
PowerplayWhen one team has more players on the ice than the other team due to a penalty.
Puck LineA gambling term referring to the goal spread a team is supposed to win by; usually, the puck line is 1.5 goals, and there are odds associated with it.
Puck Moving DefensemenA defenseman who is very good at the offensive aspect of the game either by being a good passer and/or skater; and is good at bringing the puck up the ice on the breakout.
Pulling the GoalieWhen a team’s goalie skates to their bench and a skater replaces them on the ice; this is done when a team is behind and trying to score a goal, or because of a delayed penalty.
ReboundWhen a goalie makes a save on a shot, but does not freeze the puck, and the puck goes back into play.
Red LineThe thick red line in the center of the ice hockey rink.
RefereeThe on-ice officials who enforce hockey rules by blowing their whistles, calling goals, penalties, infractions, and more. There are 2 referees on the ice in NHL games; they wear black and white striped shirts and have orange armbands.
Ice hockey referee signaling a goal with his arm straight.  Referees enforce hockey rules and regulations.
RinkAnother name for the ice hockey arena.
RoughingA minor or major penalty where a player uses excessive force on an opponent, usually hitting or punching the opponent with their gloves on.
Salary ArbitrationThe process of negotiating player contracts in which a third party gets involved and determines the amount of the contract. To learn more about Salry Arbitration, check out our article here.
Saucer Pass / SauceA pass that goes in the air over the opponent’s sticks and then falls back to the ice just before reaching a teammate; this requires a high level of skill.
ScratchWhen a player does not suit up for a game. Teams can carry 3 extra backup players; every game there are some players who do not play or dress for the game; they are said to be scratched.
ScreenWhen a player in the offensive zone stands directly in front of the opposing goalie, trying to block their view of the puck when a teammate is shooting.
ShiftThe time when a hockey line is on the ice; when a new line comes out, a new shift begins.
ShootoutAfter the overtime period ends, if the teams are still tied, they go to a shootout where there is a series of three one-on-one penalty shots with only a skater versus the goalie; this only happens in the regular season.
Short HandedWhen a team gets a penalty and has to send a player to the penalty box, leaving them with fewer players on the ice than the other team.
Shot on GoalA shot by one team on the opposing team’s goalie, the puck must be deemed to go in the net if the goalie does not stop it; therefore, a shot that is wide of the net or hits the post is NOT a shot on goal.
ShutoutWhen a team and goalie do not allow the opposing team to score a goal in a game.
SlashingA penalty where a player hits an opponent with their stick, often in a chopping motion.
SlotThe area directly in front of the goal; there is a high slot and a low slot.
SpearingAnother name for the jersey
Stack the PadsWhen a goalie lays on his side and stacks his leg pads on top of each other to try and make the save.
Stick CheckWhen a player uses his stick to hit the opponent’s stick to try and knock the puck away from them or disrupt them.
Stretch PassA long pass that starts in a team’s defensive zone, and they try to pass to a teammate in the neutral zone, usually close to the offensive zone blue line.
SweaterAnother name for jersey
ToeThe part of the hockey stick blade at the end or tip of the blade.
Toe DragA skilled finesse puck handling move when a player uses the toe (the end) of their stick to drag the puck backward to get around the defender.
Touch UpThe act of leaving the offensive zone when a player is in an offsides position and getting back onside.
TrafficWhen there are a couple of skaters in front of the net trying to create a screen on the goalie, and makes it hard for the goalie to see where the puck is.
TrippingA minor penalty where a player causes an opposing player to fall with the use of a stick or body part.
Two Line PassAn old NHL rule that did not allow for a pass from inside a team’s defensive zone past the center red line; if this happened, the play was whistled dead. This rule was removed from the game in 2005 in order to create more offense.
Two Way ForwardA forward who excels at both ends of the ice, not only contributing offensively but also an exceptional defender.
Unsportsmanlike ConductA penalty given when a player is acting inappropriately, such as saying something offensive to an official or falling to the ground when it’s not necessary in an attempt to draw a penalty on the other team; this is known as diving or embellishment.
Wrap AroundWhen an offensive player goes behind the opponent’s net from one side to the other and tries to score a goal.
ZamboniThe large machine that resurfaces the ice by scraping it to make it even and removing any divots or imperfections.
A Zamboni driving on the ice hockey rink cutting the ice. The Zamboni is white.

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