How to play Hockey

Ice hockey and field hockey have some slight differences in the rules and the way the game is played. For clarity, this guide focuses on the rules of field hockey.

How many players are in a hockey team?

11 players make up a hockey team. This includes a goalkeeper, defenders, attackers and midfielders.

Defend or attack

Some possible formations are 4 attackers, 3 midfielders and 3 defenders, or 3 attackers, 3 midfielders and 4 defenders. For a defensive play, this second option is the preferred one. Otherwise, the first suggestion is ideal for focusing on scoring, but can be risky, making it harder to prevent the other team from scoring.

What are the rules?

The objective of field hockey is to be the team to score the most goals in order to win. The following rules apply in the pursuit of this:

• The ball must cross over the goal line for it to be counted.
• Players can only use their sticks to hit the ball, with the exception of the goalkeeper who is allowed to use their hands and feet as well as the stick.
• The ball must be hit using only the flat side of the hockey stick.
• Players can pass the ball to a teammate or dribble it across the field while trying to avoid opposing team members who will try to take control of the ball.
• Opposing teammates can take the ball away, from the front or side only and cannot tackle from behind.
• Only one player can attempt to take the ball away from another player at any one time.
• A goal can only be scored from within the striking circle; any attempt from outside this circle will not count. (The striking circles forms a fifty-metre radius around the goal.)
• Players must not use their body or stick to shield the ball.
• The game is played in two halves. Similar to football, players take penalty shots to determine a winner in the event of a tie, with each player allowed up to eight seconds to take a shot.
• If a foul is committed, the other team will be awarded a free hit.

What counts as a foul?

• Any player hitting the ball with the round side of the stick.
• A player using their stick or their own body to shield the ball.
• Tripping, pushing or attacking other players.
• A player using their foot or anything other than the stick to move the ball.
• Interfering with another player’s stick.

The rules about penalties

• A penalty corner will be awarded to the opposing team for fouls within the striking circle.
• All other players must stay outside the striking circle until the penalty is taken.
• The ball will be placed 10 yards from the goal post at the end line.
• The player taking the penalty corner should pass the ball to their teammate waiting at the top of the striking circle.

What else should you know?

The game can be fierce, with hockey sticks often (whether intentionally or not) connecting with legs and ankles or the ball being hit so hard it hits another player in the face. As such, protective gear such as a shin guard, goggles and even a mouth-guard are highly recommended.