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The Official Site of the Washington Capitals

Hockey 101


The center is typically the team's quarterback. The center usually directs play in both the offensive and defensive zones. The center also sets up plays for his/her teammates to score goals in the opposing zone and takes most of the face-offs.


The wings or wingers play on the right or left side of the center. They cover their areas as the forward line enters and plays in the opposing zone.


The defenders usually play behind the forward line. This allows them to keep the puck in play in the opposing zone and keeps them in position to more easily defend their own goal when the play returns to their zone.

Like wingers, right and left defenders mainly cover their areas both in their opposing zone and their own zone. In their own zone, they stay close to the goal so that they can help defend the goal from the opposing team.


The goalie's job is to stay in or near his/her goal area, which can be called the crease, and stop the other team from scoring. A goalie's responsibility is to prevent the puck from entering the goal. He or she can kick it, catch it, grab it or bat it out of the way - just don't let it go past the goal line. The goalie usually plays the entire game and rarely moves away from his/her crease.

Due to the physical nature of the sport and speed of the game, ice hockey requires more pads. The most important piece of equipment is ice hockey skates.

Ice hockey players use different sticks that are usually made of a composite material and have a custom curve on the blade. Most of the padding is worn underneath the player's uniform and not seen.

The Puck

The puck is five ounces of solid vulcanized rubber, three inches in diameter and one inch thick. The puck is frozen before games to make it bounce resistant.

Forward and Defenseman Gear

In regulation ice hockey forwards and defensemen are required to wear helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, shin guards and hockey pants. Many players elect to wear a protective shield attached to their helmet and a mouthguard.

Goalie Gear

Goalies are required to wear a helmet with a full facemask, a neck guard (to protect from skate blades), shoulder pads, arm pads and a chest protector. The signature equipment of a goalie is the blocker, catching glove and leg pads.

The playing surface is divided into three distinct sections or zones. These areas are referred to as the offensive zone (area that team attacks from blue line to the end of the boards), the neutral zone (area between the blue lines, divided by the red line) and the defensive zone (area that team defends from end boards to blue line). The zones are determined by lines that are painted in the ice and extend up the side boards. There are five primary lines on the playing surface; two red goal lines, two blue lines and a center red line.

An official NHL rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide with rounded corners. Walls surround the ice to keep the puck in play. These walls, called boards, are three feet high with shatterproof glass extending from the top to protect fans from flying pucks.

Scoring A Goal

A player is credited with scoring a goal when he/she is the last person to touch the puck before it enters the opponent's net, usually the player who shoots the puck at the net.

Getting An Assist

An assist is awarded to the players that take part in the play immediately preceding the goal. For example, often times when a player scores a goal they receive help from their teammates in the form of a pass. As many as two players can get credit with an assist of a goal.


A player shoots the puck from behind the center red line across the opponent's goal line and the puck is not touched by an opposing player until it crosses the goal line. If the opposing team touches the puck first after it crosses the goal line, icing is called and a face-off is held at the opposite end. If the team that shoots the puck touches it first after it crosses the goal line, icing is not called and play continues. Icing is not called when the team that shoots the puck is shorthanded or playing with fewer players on the ice than the other team.


Both skates of an offensive player completely cross the opposing teams blue line before the puck crosses the line. When offside violation occurs the play is blown dead and a faceoff is conducted in the neutral zone closest to where the offside occurred.

Penalty Shot

Awarded to an offensive player who has control of the puck and is denied a reasonable chance by being illegally checked or impeded by an opponent. This infraction must take place in the neutral zone or the attacking zone and there cannot be an opposing player between the shooter and the goalkeeper. A penalty shot is a on-on-one breakaway against the goalie with no other players involved.

Minor Penalty

A minor penalty is the most common form of penalty. A player who receives a minor penalty must sit in the penalty box and will remain off the ice for two minutes. A double minor penalty requires a player to sit in the penalty box for four minutes. If a goal is scored against the team with fewer players the penalty ends immediately.

Major Penalty

A major penalty is a stronger degree of penalty for many of the same infractions that apply to minor penalties. A player who receives a major penalty must sit in the penalty box and will remain off the ice for five minutes. If a goal is scored during a major penalty the penalty does not end.

Cross Checking

A player using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent. Cross checking can be a five minute major penalty or a two minute minor penalty and is determined by the referee making the call based on the severity of contact.


Violently checking an opponent into boards.

Delay Of Game

Imposed when a player or goalkeeper purposely delays the game in any way. For example, intentionally knocking the net off or clearing the puck over the glass in the defensive zone. If the net is deliberately displaced during a breakaway the opposing team is awarded a penalty shot.

High Sticking

Making contact with your stick on an opponent above the shoulders. A double-minor penalty is assessed when this action results in injury to the opposing player regardless of whether the action was accidental or intentional.


The act of using the stick in a manner that enables a player or goaltender to restrain an opponent. For hooking to be called a player must impede the forward progress of an opposing player by hooking him/her with the blade of the stick.


The act of a player or goalkeeper swinging his stick at an opponent, whether contact is made or not. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent's body, the opponent's stick, or on or near the opponent's hands.


A player that places his stick or any part of his body on an opposing player in a manner that causes the opponent to trip or fall. Tripping will not result in a penalty if the player makes contact with the puck first and then tripped his opponent.

Misconduct / Unsportsmanlike

Most commonly called for arguing a call or continuing an altercation. The offending player is ruled off the ice for ten minutes. In the event of a misconduct penalty against the goaltender another player on the ice serves that penalty. When a goalkeeper is called for a misconduct penalty the offending teams coach or manager shall designate which on ice player shall serve the ten minute penalty.


Stabbing an opponent with the point of the stick blade, whether contact is made or not. A double-minor penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who spears an opponent and does not make contact. A major penalty is imposed when contact is made on the opponent.