Hockey Jargon

The Many Shades of Hockey: Exploring the Differences Between Ice and Field Hockey

Hockey is a sport loved by many around the world. It is fast-paced, exciting, and requires incredible skill and athleticism.

However, when someone mentions hockey, they might be referring to different types of the sport. The two most popular forms of hockey are ice hockey and field hockey.

While they share some similarities, there are also significant differences between the two. As an avid ice hockey fan, I have always been curious about field hockey and wanted to understand more about this lesser-known version of the sport.

In this article, we will explore the different types of hockey, focusing on ice hockey and field hockey, and delve into the key distinctions, including the number of players used and the penalties and fouls in each game. Different Types of Hockey:

When it comes to hockey, there are various versions played around the world.

Two of the most prominent ones are ice hockey and field hockey. While both involve a similar concept of using sticks to hit a ball or puck, they are played on different surfaces, with different rules and equipment.

Ice hockey, as the name suggests, is played on ice. It is a popular sport in countries such as Canada, the United States, and Russia.

Ice hockey games are known for their fast-paced nature, with players zooming across the rink in pursuit of the puck. It requires the use of ice skates and specialized protective gear, such as helmets, padding, and gloves.

On the other hand, field hockey is played on a grass or artificial turf field. It is widely played in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Unlike ice hockey, field hockey players run on the field instead of skating. They use a stick with a curved end to manipulate the ball and score goals.

Field hockey requires less specialized equipment, usually consisting of a stick, shin guards, and a mouthguard. Personal Experience and Preference:

As someone who grew up in a country where ice hockey is immensely popular, I have been exposed to and developed a deep love for the sport.

The intense speed, the bone-crushing takedowns, and the skillful puck handling have always captivated me. However, I must admit that my knowledge of field hockey is limited.

Despite its popularity in many parts of the world, I have never fully understood the rules or had the opportunity to watch a game. Differences between Ice Hockey and Field Hockey:


Number of Players Used:

One of the primary differences between ice hockey and field hockey lies in the number of players on the field. In ice hockey, each team typically consists of six players three forwards, two defensemen, and a goaltender.

The forwards are responsible for scoring goals, the defensemen for protecting their own net, and the goaltender for stopping the opponents’ shots. Contrastingly, field hockey teams have eleven players on the field ten outfield players and a goalkeeper.

This difference in the number of players gives field hockey a more open and spread-out style of play, allowing for more strategic positioning and longer passes. 2.

Penalties and Fouls:

Another significant difference between the two types of hockey is the penalties and fouls that can be incurred during the game. In ice hockey, there are numerous infractions that can lead to penalties, ranging from minor penalties lasting two minutes to major penalties resulting in five minutes of power play for the other team.

In contrast, field hockey has a less severe penalty system. Fouls in field hockey can result in either a free hit or a penalty corner, which is a direct shot on goal from the corner of the field.

A yellow card can also be given for more serious offenses, leading to a player’s temporary suspension.


In conclusion, ice hockey and field hockey may share a common name, but they are distinct sports with their own unique characteristics. While ice hockey is played on ice with six players, field hockey is played on a grass or turf field with eleven players.

Ice hockey is known for its fast-paced and physical nature, while field hockey focuses more on skillful stickwork and strategic gameplay. Understanding the differences between the two forms of hockey allows us to appreciate the diversity and versatility of the sport.

So whether you prefer the icy battleground of ice hockey or the smooth green fields of field hockey, there is no denying the thrill and excitement that hockey, in all its variations, brings to fans worldwide. 3) Playing Surface:

The playing surface is a crucial aspect of any sport, and hockey is no exception.

The difference in playing surfaces between ice hockey and field hockey further distinguishes the two sports. Let’s explore the unique characteristics of each playing surface.

3.1) Ice Hockey Playing Surface:

Ice hockey is synonymous with its name, as it is played on ice. The ice surface provides a fast and slick environment for players to showcase their skills.

However, maintaining the ice surface can be a challenging task. A well-maintained ice surface is essential for players to navigate smoothly.

However, factors like bad ice conditions and snow build-up can affect gameplay. Bad ice refers to uneven surfaces, which can create unpredictable bounces and hinder player movements.

Snow build-up can occur when snow falls during the game and is not promptly cleared, causing the puck to get stuck or move slowly. To ensure fair and safe play, ice hockey games are periodically interrupted for ice maintenance.

During these breaks, a Zamboni machine resurfaces the ice, smoothing out imperfections and removing any excess snow. This maintenance practice not only enhances gameplay but also reduces the risk of injuries caused by uneven ice conditions.

3.2) Field Hockey Playing Surface:

Unlike ice hockey, field hockey is played on a variety of surfaces, including grass and artificial turf. The most commonly used artificial turf is the water-based astro turf.

This type of turf is specially designed to mimic the feel of a natural grass surface while providing better durability and consistency. Water-based astro turf fields offer a fast and smooth playing surface, allowing the ball to glide across with minimal friction.

The surface is watered before the game to reduce friction further and create an optimal playing environment. This ensures a free-flowing style of play, giving players the opportunity to exhibit their stick skills with precision and fluidity.

Field hockey fields are also recognizable for the black pebbles that are spread across the turf. These small black rubber particles, known as “crumb rubber,” serve multiple purposes.

They provide better shock absorption, reducing the risk of injuries from falls. Additionally, the black pebbles help enhance ball control by providing a slight grip and preventing the ball from bouncing too high.

4) Structure of the Game:

The structure of a hockey game is fundamental in determining its flow and pace. Understanding the structure is essential for both players and spectators to fully appreciate the game.

Let’s delve into the game structure of both ice hockey and field hockey. 4.1) Ice Hockey Game Structure:

Ice hockey games are typically divided into three periods.

Each period lasts for twenty minutes, making a total of sixty minutes of playing time. There are two ten-minute intermissions, known as the first and second intermissions, providing teams with a chance to regroup, rest, and strategize.

During the first intermission, the ice surface is further maintained to ensure optimal playing conditions. If necessary, the Zamboni machine removes any excess snow, and the ice is resurfaced.

This practice prevents snow build-up and helps restore the ice to its ideal state. 4.2) Field Hockey Game Structure:

Field hockey games have a different structure compared to their ice hockey counterparts.

The game is divided into two halves, each lasting thirty-five minutes, resulting in a total playing time of seventy minutes. To ensure fairness and timely gameplay, there is a ten-minute halftime break, allowing teams to rest and receive tactical instructions from their coaches.

Furthermore, each half of the game is divided into four quarters of seventeen and a half minutes each. These quarters provide designated moments for players to catch their breath, regroup, and make strategic adjustments.

The structure of quarters allows for natural breaks in gameplay and ensures a steady pace throughout the match.


In conclusion, the playing surface and structure of the game are key elements that differentiate ice hockey and field hockey. Ice hockey embraces the slick and fast-paced nature of playing on ice, requiring maintenance breaks to ensure fair and safe play.

Field hockey, on the other hand, can be played on various surfaces such as grass or water-based astro turf, providing a smooth and controlled environment. Understanding the nuances of playing surfaces and game structures in hockey helps develop a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness of each sport.

Whether it is gliding across the icy rink or sprinting on the green field, the love for hockey transcends these differences, bringing joy and excitement to players and fans alike. 5) Scoring:

Scoring is the ultimate objective of any hockey game.

It is the moment that fans and players eagerly anticipate, as goals can change the course of a match in an instant. While scoring is a shared goal in both ice hockey and field hockey, there are notable distinctions in how goals are scored in each sport.

5.1) Scoring in Ice Hockey:

In ice hockey, scoring can occur from anywhere on the ice surface. Players have the freedom to shoot and score from various positions, including close to the net or from long-range shots.

As long as the puck entirely crosses the goal line, the goal counts, earning a point for the team. This aspect of ice hockey adds excitement and unpredictability, as scoring opportunities can arise from unexpected positions.

Furthermore, ice hockey encourages offensive creativity and skill by allowing players to maneuver the puck in diverse ways. This includes goals scored off deflections, rebounds, slap shots, wrist shots, and dekes.

The versatility in scoring methods keeps the game dynamic and ensures that every play has the potential to lead to a goal. 5.2) Scoring in Field Hockey:

Field hockey, in contrast to ice hockey, has specific rules regarding where goals can be scored from.

Goals in field hockey can only be scored from within the “D” area, also referred to as the shooting circle. This is a semi-circular area located in front of each goal, and goals scored from beyond this area do not count.

This rule adds an extra layer of challenge to players, as they must strategically position themselves within the D area to create scoring opportunities. The requirement to score from within the D area in field hockey places more emphasis on teamwork and intricate passing plays.

Players need to create openings near the goal, maintain possession, and execute precise shots to find the back of the net. This restricted scoring area necessitates a cohesive and coordinated offensive approach, making teamwork and strategy crucial components in field hockey.

6) Offsides:

Offsides is a crucial aspect of hockey that regulates player positioning during gameplay. However, there are stark differences in how offsides is handled between ice hockey and field hockey.

6.1) Offsides in Ice Hockey:

In ice hockey, offsides is governed by large blue lines present on either end of the rink. The rule states that an attacking player must have both their skates fully crossed the blue line and be in possession of the puck before entering the offensive zone.

If an attacking player crosses the blue line ahead of the puck, play is deemed offsides, and the faceoff is taken outside the offensive zone. The offsides rule in ice hockey serves several purposes.

First, it prevents players from “cherry-picking,” which means lingering near the opposing team’s goal to gain an unfair advantage. Second, it promotes fair play and strategic gameplay by requiring players to coordinate their movements effectively.

Lastly, it prevents potential collisions between attacking and defending players near the blue line. 6.2) No Offsides in Field Hockey:

Unlike ice hockey, field hockey does not have an offsides rule.

This means that players can freely move and position themselves anywhere on the field, regardless of their proximity to the opponent’s goal. The absence of offsides in field hockey contributes to a more fluid and dynamic game.

It allows for quick transitions, innovative tactics, and seamless passing plays without the risk of being penalized for being in an offside position. Field hockey players have the freedom to exploit open spaces, create numerical advantages, and maintain continuous movement, leading to a faster and more exciting style of play.


Scoring and offsides play significant roles in shaping the gameplay and strategies of ice hockey and field hockey. While ice hockey allows for scoring from anywhere on the ice surface, field hockey restricts scoring to within the designated D area.

The scoring rules in each sport influence the tactics employed by teams to create scoring opportunities. Furthermore, the presence of an offsides rule in ice hockey promotes fairness, prevents obstruction, and fosters strategic play.

Conversely, the absence of offsides in field hockey allows for greater freedom of movement, leading to a more fluid and fast-paced game. Understanding these differences in scoring and offsides between ice hockey and field hockey illuminates the intricacies of both sports.

It highlights the strategic nuances of each game and underscores the diverse approaches required to succeed in scoring goals. Whether it be the thrilling array of shots in ice hockey or the precision and teamwork in field hockey, the magic of hockey’s scoring moments remains a captivating aspect of both sports.

7) Stick Handling:

Stick handling is a fundamental skill in hockey that involves controlling and maneuvering the ball or puck with the stick. While both ice hockey and field hockey require adept stick handling, there are notable differences in how players handle their sticks in each sport.

7.1) Stick Handling in Ice Hockey:

In ice hockey, players have the versatility to use both the front and back of the stick blade for stick handling. This flexibility allows for a wide range of stick handling techniques and provides players with greater control over the puck.

Using the front of the stick blade, players can execute precise and quick movements, such as stickhandling in tight spaces or making intricate dekes to deceive opponents. The front of the blade is typically flatter, providing a larger surface area for handling the puck.

On the other hand, the back of the stick blade is often used for more powerful and sweeping motions. Players can use the back of the blade to make longer passes or shots, utilizing the curve and flexibility of the blade to generate speed and accuracy.

Mastering stick handling in ice hockey involves developing a combination of quick hands, agility, and creativity to navigate through opponents and maintain puck possession. The ability to seamlessly transition between using the front and back of the stick blade is a key component of a proficient ice hockey player’s skill set.

7.2) Stick Handling in Field Hockey:

In field hockey, players primarily use the flat side of the stick for stick handling. Unlike the curved blade of an ice hockey stick, the flat side of a field hockey stick allows for precise control and maneuverability of the ball.

Using the flat side, field hockey players employ a combination of quick wrist movements, dribbling techniques, and deft touches to retain possession and evade opponents. They rely on their stick skills to make accurate and concise passes, drive the ball forward, or execute deceptive maneuvers.

In addition to using the flat side, field hockey players also have the option to turn the stick over and use the rounded backside. By turning over the stick, players can execute reverse stick hits or passes, offering an element of surprise to their offensive arsenal.

This skill requires precise hand-eye coordination and a keen understanding of the stick’s orientation. The focus on stick handling in field hockey highlights the technical precision and finesse required in the sport.

Players must develop exceptional ball control, awareness, and agility to maneuver in tight spaces and create scoring opportunities. 8) Goalies:

Goalies play a pivotal role in hockey, acting as the last line of defense for their teams.

While their purpose remains the same in both ice hockey and field hockey, there are significant differences in the equipment and roles of goalies in each sport. 8.1) Ice Hockey Goalies:

Ice hockey goalies are equipped with larger and bulkier padding to protect themselves from the hard and fast shots that come their way.

Their primary objective is to prevent the puck from entering the net, utilizing a combination of positioning, quick reflexes, and a distinct paddle attached to their stick. The net in ice hockey is relatively smaller compared to field hockey, measuring 72 inches wide and 48 inches tall.

This smaller size requires ice hockey goalies to cover a smaller area, emphasizing the importance of positioning and movement in the crease. The paddle attached to an ice hockey goalie’s stick allows them to make saves, deflect shots, and control rebounds.

This additional tool gives goalies an advantage in clearing the puck away from danger, ensuring that opposing players cannot capitalize on loose pucks in front of the net. 8.2) Field Hockey Goalies:

Field hockey goalies, in contrast to their ice hockey counterparts, have relatively smaller padding since the ball used in field hockey is less dense and travels at a slower pace.

The padding primarily focuses on protecting the body from deflections, stick hits, and potential falls. The goal in field hockey is larger, measuring 12 feet wide and 7 feet tall.

This larger size means field hockey goalies must cover a wider area and rely heavily on their positioning, footwork, and agility to make saves. Unlike ice hockey goalies, field hockey goalies use the same type of stick as their teammates.

This stick allows them to kick, block, or clear the ball away from the goal. Field hockey goalies rely on their quick reactions and skillful use of the stick to redirect or smother shots on goal.


In hockey, stick handling and goalkeeping are integral aspects that contribute to the overall dynamics and strategies of the game. While ice hockey players utilize the front and back of the stick blade for stick handling, field hockey players mainly rely on the flat side, with the option to use the reverse stick as well.

Additionally, ice hockey goalies utilize larger padding, a stick with a distinct paddle, and defend a smaller net, while field hockey goalies have smaller padding, use the same type of stick, and protect a larger net. Understanding these differences enhances our appreciation for the specialized skills and techniques required in each form of hockey.

Whether it is the finesse and versatility of stick handling or the agility and shot-stopping abilities of goalies, these aspects contribute to the captivating nature of hockey in all its variations. 9) Fouls and Penalties:

Fouls and penalties are an essential part of any sport, as they ensure fair play and maintain the integrity of the game.

Both field hockey and ice hockey have specific rules governing fouls and penalties, but there are notable differences in how they are enforced and the consequences for players. 9.1) Fouls and Penalties in Field Hockey:

In field hockey, fouls occur when players commit infractions that go against the rules of the game.

The severity of the foul determines the penalty imposed on the player. The most common penalties in field hockey include losing possession, receiving a green card, yellow card, or red card.

When a player commits a foul, possession is typically awarded to the opposition through a free hit or penalty corner, depending on the location and severity of the offense. A green card is given for minor offenses, signaling a warning to the player and their team.

It does not result in the player being temporarily suspended or sent off the field. A yellow card is a more serious penalty, resulting in the player’s temporary suspension.

The player has to sit on the sideline for a specified period of time, typically five to ten minutes, while their team plays with a numerical disadvantage. Yellow cards are given for repeated offenses or more severe infractions.

In extreme cases, a red card may be issued, resulting in the player’s ejection from the game. A red card typically signifies a serious offense or unsportsmanlike conduct.

When a player receives a red card, their team must play with one fewer player for a more extended period of time, often the remainder of the game. 9.2) Fouls and Penalties in Ice Hockey:

In ice hockey, fouls and penalties are divided into different categories, ranging from non-infraction stoppages to minor penalties, major penalties, and misconducts.

The severity of the penalty depends on the nature of the offense committed by the player. Non-infraction stoppages occur when the game is temporarily paused due to reasons unrelated to player misconduct, such as an offside, icing, or the puck going out of play.

These stoppages do not result in any penalties for the players. Minor penalties generally result from less severe infractions and result in the penalized player serving time in the penalty box for two minutes.

The player’s team plays shorthanded, creating a power play opportunity for the opposing team. Common minor penalties include tripping, hooking, and slashing.

Major penalties are more serious offenses that result in the player serving five minutes in the penalty box. Major penalties are typically given for actions such as fighting, spearing, or checking from behind.

The team plays shorthanded for the duration of the penalty. Misconduct penalties are often issued for repeated infractions or unsportsmanlike conduct.

A player receiving a misconduct penalty is removed from the game for a period of ten minutes. However, the team does not play shorthanded during this time.

The enforcement of penalties in ice hockey aims to maintain discipline and deter players from engaging in dangerous or inappropriate behavior on the ice. 10) Shooting:

Shooting is an essential skill in hockey, as it allows players to score goals and contribute to their team’s success.

However, there are distinct rules and techniques when it comes to shooting in both ice hockey and field hockey. 10.1) Shooting in Ice Hockey:

In ice hockey, players are allowed to shoot the puck into the net by raising it off the ice.

This allows for a greater variety of shot techniques, including wrist shots, slap shots, and snap shots. The ability to lift the puck off the ice enables players to shoot with more power and accuracy, making the game more dynamic and exciting.

However, shooting the puck in ice hockey also comes with risks. The high velocity of shots combined with the dense rubber puck can be dangerous if the puck hits another player, especially in vulnerable areas.

Players wear protective gear, including helmets and facial shields, to minimize the risk of injury from shots. 10.2) Shooting in Field Hockey:

In field hockey, shooting the ball involves keeping it on the ground at all times, except for specific exceptions.

The rules state that the ball must not be intentionally lifted into the air during regular gameplay. The focus on keeping the ball on the ground emphasizes ball control, precise passing, and accurate shooting techniques.

However, there are exceptions to shooting the ball in the air in field hockey. When shooting at the goal, players are permitted to lift the ball higher off the ground to make a shot if it is safe to do so.

This exception allows for more creativity and variation in shooting techniques, enabling players to try different methods to bypass defenders or deceive the goalkeeper. The restriction on lifting the ball off the ground during regular gameplay in field hockey enhances the game’s emphasis on control, teamwork, and passing accuracy.

It also ensures player safety by reducing the risk of injury from airborne balls in a fast-paced and crowded field.


Fouls, penalties, and shooting techniques play significant roles in shaping the nature of play in both field hockey and ice hockey. While field hockey focuses on maintaining possession and penalizing infractions through loss of possession or card penalties, ice hockey employs a system of minor and major penalties to maintain discipline and deter dangerous play.

Shooting techniques differ, as ice hockey allows players to lift the puck off the ice, resulting in a greater variety of shots, while field hockey emphasizes keeping the ball on the ground except for specific exceptions when shooting at the goal. Understanding these distinctions in fouls, penalties, and shooting techniques heightens our appreciation for the nuances of each game and the strategies employed by players.

Whether it is the precise stick work and controlled movements in field hockey or the power and accuracy of shots in ice hockey, these aspects contribute to the unique and captivating nature of hockey in its various forms. 11) Ties and Overtime:

Ties and overtime play a significant role in determining the outcome of hockey games.

While ties were once more common in both ice hockey and field hockey, there have been developments in each sport to ensure a decisive result. In this section, we will explore how ties and overtime are handled in both ice hockey and field hockey.

11.1) Ties and Overtime in Ice Hockey:

In professional ice hockey, ties are no longer an accepted result. Instead, when a game is tied at the end of regulation play, additional time is added to determine a winner.

This additional time is known as overtime. Overtime in ice hockey consists of a five-minute sudden-death period, meaning the first team to score wins the game.

During this period, the teams play with three skaters aside as opposed to the regular five in regulation play, creating more open ice and scoring opportunities. If no goals are scored during the overtime period, a shootout follows.

In the shootout, three players from each team attempt to score against the opposing goaltender in a one-on-one situation. If the game remains tied after the initial three shootout attempts, the shootout continues with a sudden-death format until a winner is determined.

Overtime and shootouts add an extra layer of excitement and tension to ice hockey games, ensuring a decisive outcome and preventing ties. This format guarantees that every game has a winner and loser, providing a sense of closure to the match.

11.2) Ties and Overtime in Field Hockey:

Ties are still a possible outcome in field hockey, especially in non-professional or non-competitive matches. However, in certain situations, such as tournaments or competitions, overtime and penalty shootouts may be used to determine a winner.

If a match ends in a tie at the end of regulation time, the game may proceed to an overtime period. The length of the overtime period can vary depending on the level of play and the specific competition rules.

Overtime in field hockey is typically played in two 7.5-minute halves, with teams switching sides at halftime. If, after the overtime period, the game remains tied, a penalty shootout is implemented to determine the winner.

Five players from each team take turns attempting to score against the opposing goalkeeper. The team with the most goals after the five rounds wins the game.

If the shootout also ends in a tie, additional rounds are played in a sudden-death format until a winner emerges. While ties are still a possible outcome, the introduction of overtime and penalty shootouts in certain situations reflects the desire for a decisive winner in competitive field hockey matches.

These techniques ensure that the outcome of the game is determined, adding excitement and intensity to the final moments.


Ties and overtime play crucial roles in hockey, ensuring that games have a winner and a decisive outcome. In professional ice hockey, ties have been eliminated, and overtime and shootouts are used to determine the winner in tied games.

In field hockey, ties are still possible, but in certain situations, overtime and penalty shootouts may be introduced to determine a winner. These developments in managing ties and creating overtime scenarios enhance the competitive nature of the sports.

They add an extra layer of excitement and tension, as teams have the opportunity to score and secure victory in the additional time or through shootout situations. Whether it is the sudden-death drama of overtime in ice hockey or the nail-biting penalty shootouts in field hockey, these elements contribute to the thrill and unpredictability that make hockey such a captivating sport.

In conclusion, understanding the various aspects of hockey, such as the different types of the sport, scoring, playing surfaces, game structures, stick handling, penalties, shooting, and ties, provides a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness and intricacies of both ice hockey and field hockey. The distinctions in each topic, from the surfaces they are played on to the rules and techniques involved, contribute to the distinct nature and excitement of each sport.

The importance of these topics lies in the fact that they shape the gameplay, strategies, and player experiences of both ice hockey and field hockey. Whether you are a fan, player, or simply interested in hockey, these insights provide a comprehensive understanding of the sport.

With each new piece of knowledge, we can continue to celebrate the diversity and thrill of hockey in all its forms.

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