Rules of Hockey | How it is Played?

Games played with curved sticks can be found in the histories of different cultures. Hockey is one of such sports that follows the same tradition and even in this modern era, it is equally popular as various other famous sports like cricket and football. Some of the top hockey playing nations include New Zealand, Germany, India and England.

Rules of Hockey

Though many international hockey events take place all over the year, the pinnacle of the sports comes in the World Cup when top playing nations compete with each other.

Objective of Playing Hockey

The objective of the game is very simple, players have to take the ball towards the opponent’s goal post with the help of sticks, and to earn points, they have to send the ball into the goal post. Every ball successfully sent into the goalpost is called a goal/point. In the end of the game, goals/points of both the teams decide the winner. In case of an equal number of goals, a match is drawn.

How to Play?

Field Hockey is played with a hockey stick and a ball. Both teams have an equal number of players who try their level best to hit the ball in the opposition’s goal post which earns them a goal.

But, there’s more about Field Hockey which we’ll discuss below including fouls, legal goals, penalties and what happens when a match is drawn. Keep reading till the end to learn all about Field Hockey.

General Rules of Hockey

  • Each team consists of 11 players and 6 substitutes.
  • Only one side of that stick can be used to hit the ball – the flat side.
  • A goal is scored when the ball goes into the opponent’s goal post from within the 16 yard area.
  • No part of the body can be used to touch or hit the ball intentionally, passing and dribbling is done by using the stick.
  • A foul is called when a player purposely attempts to hit the ball off another player.
  • Another form of foul is when a player tries to stop the ball using his body part.
  • You can’t raise your hockey stick above your waist height.
  • The form and spot of compensation depends upon the place where the foul took place and the severity of the foul.
  • Undercutting is another type of foul awarded against the player who lifts the ball in a dangerous manner.
  • Another common type of foul that occurs during a hockey game is a player from one side hitting the stick of the opponent team’s player – be it unintentional or intentional, it is always considered a foul.
  • Referees can show the yellow or red card to players in case of serious offenses like hurting an opponent intentionally.
  • Yellow card means warning while the red card signals you are ejected from the game and your team will have to play with one less player as no substitute can play for a dismissed player.

Punishments in the Hockey Field

Free Hit: It is a common punishment for less severe foul . It is awarded on any offense that occurs outside the scoring circle. A free hit is usually taken at the place of violation. All opposition players must be at least 5 yards away from where the hit is to be taken.

Penalty Corner: A penalty corner often turns out to be a perfect goal scoring opportunity for any team who gets it when the defensive side either commits a foul inside the striking circle or purposely sends out the ball out-of-bounds over the end line.

  • A penalty corner is taken by an attacking player – any player nominated by the captain except the goal keeper – at a spot near the end line 10 yards away from the goalpost.
  • All attackers stand outside the striking circle.
  • All defenders including the keeper stand behind the end of the goal post line until contact is made with the ball.
  • Once the ball has been hit, all players can rush into the circle to either hit or defend it.

Penalty Stroke: A penalty stroke is awarded when a team commits an intentional offense to prevent an almost certain goal. Penalty stroke is taken from 7 yards away from the goal and in this case, the opposite team has only a goalkeeper to beat.

Time Duration of a Hockey Match

A game of hockey is played in 4 quarters – each of 15 minutes. After the first quarter, a 2-minute break is given to the players to replenish themselves, and then the second quarter begins.

After the end of 2nd quarter, a 15-minute break is given to the players. The same pattern is followed from 3rd quarter to 4th. The complete playing duration of a hockey match is 79 minutes, out of which,19 minutes are reserved for quarter breaks.

Both teams switch sides after the half time i.e. after the 2nd quarter.

Toss in Field Hockey

A toss takes place with a coin before the game to decide which team will take possession of the ball and start the game.

The Playing Field in Hockey

The game of hockey is played on a rectangular-shape pitch. The perimeter edges are known as sidelines and they must measure 100 yards.

The back line should measure 60 yards. A 2-meter run-off at the sidelines and 3 meter at the backlines is necessary. Every line should be white and 75 millilitres wide.

The whole field is divided into two halves, each containing a goalpost for respective teams. The width of the pitch must be 60 yards, as per international standards.

Circle/D in Hockey

This circle serves as the home for goalkeeper during the game. And just behind it, a goalpost stands that is defended by a team throughout the game. This area is formed by a 4 yards straight line, going parallel to the goal, connected to two 16-yard quadrant arcs.

Goal Dimensions in Hockey

There are stricts dimensions followed at international level when it comes to goalposts. A goal must be at least 1.20 m deep at the ground level and must be at least 0.90 meter deep at the crossbar level. The standard field hockey net dimensions are 3.7m (W) x 2.1m (H) x 1.2m (D).

Out Of Bounds in Hockey Field

There are side lines drawn all over the hockey field. When the ball goes over the sidelines, the opposite team restarts the game. Any of their players passes the ball from the side-in spot. And when the ball unintentionally goes over the backline off the stick of a defense player, the game restarts with a long corner.

A long corner is taken from a spot on the sidelines 5 yards away from the corner flag on the side of the field. And if it is done off the stick of the attacking team, the game resumes with a self-pass or a hit from the 16-yard mark by the defensive team.

Equipments Required to Play Hockey

A hockey game is played with a hard ball which is hit by hockey sticks. For protection, players can wear shin pads and gum shields. Goalkeepers are commonly seen wearing pads on their chest, padded gloves, helmet and a face mask as the ball flies quite often towards them.

Hockey Stick: The maximum permitted length of this stick is 41” and the weight shouldn’t be more than 737 grams. Most of the players opt to play with sticks ranging between 19 oz – 22 oz ( 538 gram – 623 gram).

Ball: The hockey balls are hard and their dimensions are the same for all kinds of games and tournaments i.e. 2.8 to 2.96” in diameter.

Scoring in Hockey

Scoring in hockey is very simple because there are no points given other than the goal scored. No foul results in points but only the goal scored will decide the winner.

Draw in Hockey

Draw occurs when both the teams have scored the same number of goals at the end of the player. But in knockouts or deciders of bigger tournaments like the World Cup and Champions Trophy, teams are given extra 5 minutes to score a goal. The team scoring the goal first in extra time wins the game regardless of how much extra time is still left. And if it still remains a draw, then they go for penalty shootout in which each team gets 5 penalties and the winner is usually found in them.

Man of the Tournaments

There are no best players of the game award in hockey but player of the tournament is chosen in every big tournament based on player’s performance in all games in terms of goals scored or saved, if it’s a goalkeeper.

Umpires’ Role

Each match is supervised by two umpires on the field. Their job is to monitor the game closely, give unbiased verdicts in case of fouls, goals, and when a player intentionally tries to harm the opposition team’s player, then they have the authority to dismiss the player permanently. For tough decisions, they can also take assistance from the TV umpire to reach the right decision.

Famous Hockey Events

Numerous hockey events take place all over the year. These events are followed worldwide and tremendously affect the rankings of international teams based on which they get the entry to tournaments like World Cup and Champions Trophy. Some of the famous tournaments are:

  • World Cup
  • Champions Trophy
  • Olympics
  • Hockey Asia Cup
  • Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament

Famous Hockey Venues

Some of the famous and biggest hockey stadiums are:

  • Hartleyvale Stadium – South Africa
  • Perth Hockey Stadium – Australia
  • Glasgow National Hockey Centre -UK
  • Wagener Stadium – Netherlands
  • Riverbank Arena – UK

Who Governs Hockey Game?

FIH (International Hockey Federation) is the governing body whose job is to promote the game and make amendments in the laws of the game if they believe certain law needs a bit of tweaking to suit the modern day hockey requirements. All international hockey events are catered by the FIH, including deciding the venues, number of teams and dates.