West Hill Golden Hawks
Scarborough's oldest and longest running House League and Competitive Hockey Program ... Since 1954
WHMHA Guide For Parents

A Parent's Guide To Ice Hockey

Hockey: The Game

Ice hockey is played on a rink, a sheet of ice which is usually between 185 and 200 feet long and about 85 feet wide.

The game is played in three periods of equal length; 20 minutes for each period at most levels, but often 10, 12 or 15 minutes in youth classifications. The sport involves four basic skills: skating, passing, stick-handling and shooting. These skills can be learned at any age, and the good hockey player continually works to improve and refine his or her skills.

Physical size is not an important factor in becoming a skilled and successful hockey player. Every player has an opportunity to be a part of the action, given the speed of the game, the number of players on a team and the size of the surface upon which the game is played.


The Four Basic Skills Of Hockey

1). Skating is the skill that makes hockey unique, and it's something that players at all levels of the sport continually strive to improve. Without adequate skating ability, players are less able to perform the other essential skills of the sport.

2). Stick-handling is perhaps the most difficult of the basic skills to master. It allows a skilled player to maneuver around opponents and create better offensive opportunities.

3). Passing is what makes hockey a true team sport and helps make the game fun. Passing gets everyone on the ice involved in the action and turns scoring into a team effort. Helping teammates experience success is what the game is all about, and passing allows the thrill of scoring to be shared.

4). Shooting is the end result of an offensive team play and is the action that produces a goal. Many players spend most of their time practicing shooting because they believe scoring is the most fun. Players should, however, place an equal emphasis on the other basic skills of hockey, given the fact most players generally take fewer than six shots in an entire game.


 The Team

A team is comprised of a maximum of six players on the ice at any one time (see "penalties").

The goaltender is responsible for guarding the team's goal and preventing the opposing team from scoring.

The primary responsibility of the defensemen (two) is to prevent the opposing team from having a good shot at the goal. The defensemen also attempt to gain possession of the puck and pass to teammates to initiate an offensive scoring opportunity.

The primary responsibility of the forwards (three: right wing, center and left wing) is to score. However, forwards also assist the defensemen by back-checking after their team has yielded control of the puck to the opposition.


The Playing Zones

The ice surface is divided by blue lines into three zones: defensive, offensive and neutral.

The defensive zone is the area in which a team protects its own goal and attempts to keep the opposition from scoring. This same zone is the opposing team's offensive zone, or the area in which they are attempting to score.

The neutral zone is the area between the two blue lines.


The Officials

At higher levels of ice hockey competition, three officials, one referee (identified by an orange arm band) and two linesmen, are utilized. At the youth level, two officials, both of whom are referees, are common. The referee is the ultimate authority during the game and is primarily responsible for calling penalties and determining if goals have been legally scored.

The primary responsibilities of the linesmen include determining violations of off-side and icing while assisting the referee in enforcing the rules of the game.


The Rules

The playing rules of hockey are divided into three basic categories:

1) Violations that result in a face-off

2) Violations that result in a player being awarded a penalty shot

3) Violations that result in a player being sent to the penalty box for a specified period of time

The following is a brief explanation of each category or type of violation. Naturally, there are technical aspects of each rule that will, at various times, determine whether or not the violation is called.



Off-Side : An offensive player may not precede the puck across the blue line into the offensive zone.

Off-Side Pass : The puck may not be passed from a team's defensive zone to a player of the same team who is beyond the center red line (applies only to Junior B and above).

Icing : A team, when both teams have an equal number of players on the ice, may not shoot the puck from behind the center red line over their opponent's goal line (except if the puck goes into the goal). In Junior B and above, the puck must first be touched by a player from the defensive team before icing is called.


Penalty Shot

A penalty shot is most commonly awarded if:

1) A player, while in a scoring position, is fouled from behind and deprived of a scoring opportunity; or

2) A defensive player grabs or falls on the puck when it is in the goal crease.

To take a penalty shot, an offensive player takes control of the puck at center ice and tries to score against the opposing goaltender. All other players are removed from the action.



For the following penalties, the penalized team must play minus the number of players serving such penalties, with one exception: the penalized team can have no fewer than four players, including the goaltender, on the ice (delayed penalty):

Minor Penalty : Two minutes. If a team is scored upon while they are shorthanded because of a minor penalty, the penalty shall terminate immediately.

Major Penalty : Five minutes. Does not terminate early for any reason.

Match Penalty : Five or ten minutes, depending upon the violation, and is served by a teammate. If assessed a match penalty, the offending player is ejected for the balance of the game and may not play in future games until the case has been reviewed by league administrators.

For the following penalties, the team will replace the penalized player on the ice immediately:

Misconduct : Ten minutes. Served in the penalty box.

Game Misconduct: Ejection for the balance of the game and the player or coach will serve an additional one game suspension.

Gross Misconduct : Ejection for the balance of the game and the player may not participate in any future games until the case has been reviewed by league administrators.

The following is a quick list of penalties and their definitions:

Slashing : Hitting or swinging at an opponent with the stick.

Holding : Impeding the progress of an opponent by using the hand, stick or any other means.

Elbowing : Checking an opponent with the elbow extended.

Hooking : Using the stick to impede the progress of an opponent.

Tripping : An action against an opponent's leg which causes the opponent to fall.

Charging : Body checking an opponent at an excessive speed; checking or pushing from behind.

High-Sticking : Carrying the stick above normal shoulder-height. If the violation results in an injury to an opponent, a major penalty should be assessed.

Interference : Impeding the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the puck.

Cross-Checking : Checking an opponent with the stick across the body.

Checking From Behind : An extremely dangerous action characterized by a player checking an opponent directly from behind. Parents, players, coaches and referees must all work to eliminate this infraction from our sport.


Glossary Of Hockey Terms, A to Z

Assist :  An assist is credited in the scoring record to the offensive player or players involved in the play immediately preceding a goal. Maximum of two assists per goal.

Back Check: The action of the forwards skating back into their defensive zone to break up the opposing team's offensive play.

Body Check: Using the body to impede an opponent who has possession of the puck to break up or disrupt an offensive play.

Breakaway: A scoring opportunity that occurs when there are no defending players between the puck carrier and the opposing goaltender.

Breakout: Movement of a team in possession of the puck out of its defensive zone.

Changing On The Fly: Substitution of players without a stoppage in play.

Clearing The Puck: Shooting the puck out of the defensive zone or away from the front of the goal.

Delayed Penalty: A team shall not be shorthanded on the ice more than two players at any one time because of imposed penalties. Therefore, should a team receive a third penalty, that penalty shall be delayed in its start until one of the preceding penalties has terminated. Also, the referee will not call a penalty until the offending team has touched the puck.

Delayed Whistle: When a violation occurs, the official will not blow the whistle to stop play as long as the non-offending team is in possession of the puck. The moment the offending team touches the puck, play will be stopped.

Face-Off: Dropping the puck between one player from each team to initiate play.

Forechecking: Pressuring the opponent when they control the puck in the neutral or defensive zone.

Goal Crease: The area marked off in front of the goal. An offensive player may not enter the goal crease unless the puck is already inside this area.

Goal Judge: An off-ice official who sits behind the goal, outside the boards, and determines if the puck enters the goal. Should there be a difference of opinion, the referee will have the final decision.

Hat Trick: Term referring to a player scoring three goals in a single game.

Icing: A team, when both teams have an equal number of players on the ice, may not shoot the puck from behind the center red line over their opponent's goal line (except if the puck goes into the goal). In Junior B and above, the puck must first be touched by a player from the defensive team before icing is called.

Minor Officials: More commonly referred to as "off-ice officials." Includes the goal judges, game timer, penalty timer and official scorer. Not all positions are utilized in youth games.

Off-Side: When an offensive player precedes the puck across the blue line and into the offensive zone. For an off-side violation, a face-off will be conducted in the neutral zone.

Off-Side Pass: In Junior B and above, the puck may not be passed from a team's defensive zone to a player of the same team who is beyond the center red line.

Poke Check: Using the blade of the stick to knock the puck away from an opponent.

Power Play: An attempt to score by a team which has a numerical advantage in players due to a penalty or penalties.

Referee's Crease: A restricted area, marked by a red semi-circle, in front of the timer's table which a player is prohibited from entering while the referee is reporting a penalty.

Screen: Offensive players positioning themselves to block or shield the opposing goaltender's view of the puck.

Shorthanded: When a team is playing with one or two fewer players than their opponent due to penalties.

Slap shot: A sweeping motion with an accentuated back swing to shoot the puck (similar to a drive in golf).

Slot: An unmarked area in front of the goal approximately 10 to 15 feet in diameter.

Wrist shot: The motion of shooting the puck with the puck directly against the blade of the stick.

Zamboni: A machine used to resurface the ice between periods.


Equipment: What Will They Need?

Selection of hockey equipment is a key issue for players, parents and coaches. When purchasing and fitting hockey equipment, remember two important factors: 1) make certain the player is adequately protected and 2) be sure the fitting allows freedom of movement so the player can properly perform the necessary skills. By carefully considering these two factors, your child will be more comfortable and will better enjoy their participation.

A complete set of hockey equipment can be purchased for a relatively reasonable cost. Shop around for the best values and remember that you need not buy the most expensive equipment.

Skates : Purchase skates that will fit your child today, with no more than 1/2" allowed for growth. Seek adequate protection in the ankle, toe and instep areas. Improperly fitted skates will hamper your child's ability to skate.

Helmet : Must be of a design and construction approved by CSA - hockey helmet standard (CAN/CSA–Z262.1). Must be sized at the time of purchase to fit properly. The chin strap must always be fastened.

Facemask : Must be of a design and construction approved by tCSA - hockey facemask standard (CAN/CSA–Z262.2).

Neck Guards :Must be of a design and construction approved by tCSA - hockey facemask standard (CAN/BNQ 9415-370). This essential piece of equipment is designed to prevent potentially fatal lacerations to the neck and throat caused by skate blades.

Mouthpiece : WHMHA encourages players of all ages and ability levels to use a mouthpiece.

Stick : Length should generally extend from the ice to the player's chin (with skates on). Quality and price differ greatly, so the choice is yours.

Shin Pads : Check for proper length so they protect the knee and shin completely.

Supporter and Cup : Essential protective equipment.

Gloves : Check for proper fit, with good finger and hand mobility.

Shoulder Pads : Adjust to fit the individual at the time of purchase. A fiber cap is extremely important in preventing shoulder separations and should extend to the tip of the shoulder.

Pants : Held in proper position by suspenders. Pants provide protection for the lower spine, hips and thighs.

Elbow Pads : Properly fitted so they do not slide.

For goaltenders, special equipment is necessary, such as: gloves (catching and stick), chest and stomach protector, goalie skates (with a protective shell), leg pads, and shoulder and arm protectors. The goaltender's equipment is especially important, so seek advice from a knowledgeable source.