Is Hockey a Team Sport? All About The Game

Is Hockey a Team Sport? All About The Game

Ice Hockey Teams

It is no secret that hockey has some of the largest groups of fans in the world. Every hockey fan has one team that is their team, which they will always cheer for, no matter the team players.

Hockey is a team sport that is made up of players who each have distinct positions and roles. Within the game, players must work alongside their team to score goals and prevent the opposing team from scoring any. It is also these teams that have created the large fan base that hockey has.

If you want to learn more about all aspects of a hockey game and just exactly why it is a team sport, keep reading below.

How Is Hockey Played?

A game of ice hockey’s primary goal is to shoot the puck into the opposing team’s net, scoring a goal for your team. While it sounds quite simple, it takes a lot of skill and practice to do it while you are skating on the ice.

As you may now know, hockey is quite an old game. Still, it has turned into one of the most talked-about sports globally. The NHL (National Hockey League) hosts the most extensive professional league worldwide, earning millions of dollars every year.

The Rules of the Game

The game of hockey is played with two different teams, where five players per team will be on the ice at a time, with each also having a goalie. Based on their assigned roles, these players will then work together to get the puck into the opposing team’s net.

Simultaneously, the defence players will stop the other players from scoring on their team’s net. Overall, the goal is to shoot the puck in the net, to score points for your team, racking up more than the other team at the end of the game.

While the game is in play, players can pass the puck around to other players to either get it to a player who can shoot on the opposing team’s net or get it away from a player on the other team. A breakdown of all the game rules and details on all aspects of the game are below.

Start of the Game

First, the center players start the game in the middle of the ice at the center circle. Then the referee will drop the puck between the two forward players, one from each team. These two players will then fight for the puck, winning their team the control.

In some cases, players may use their body to get the puck from the player, using their own force to push them away. Although body checking is allowed, it is not permitted in the back or above the shoulders for injury-related reasons.

Timing of a Game

As for how the game plays out time-wise, it is split up into three different periods. Depending on the level of hockey being played and the league, the timing of this varies. To be brief, they are approximately 15-20 minutes in length, to total about an hour of gameplay. Although, they last a lot longer due to stoppages and intermissions that occur throughout, which stop the game clock.

If you want to learn more about how long a hockey game is, including each period and the intermissions, we break this down in a later section or read our article covering the timing and length of hockey intermissions.

Playing the Game

Hockey requires every player to play as part of a team, work together to get the puck away from the other team, and shoot it into the net. Depending on each player’s position, they will play a role outlined by the coach that will tell them how to approach the time they are on the ice, including where to position themselves and their objective. The different player positions include:

  • Forwards
    • Center
    • Left-Wing
    • Right-Wing
  • Defence
    • Left Defensemen
    • Right Defensemen
  • Goaltender

Based on the position they hold, which typically will be the position they play for their entire hockey careers, they will either go for the puck, be open for a pass, pass the puck, shoot the puck into the opposing team’s net or stop the opposing team from scoring.

Some of the technical rules that have to do with playing the game include:

  • Only six players of each team can be on the ice at anytime
  • The puck can only be hit by a players stick or foot
  • The game must stop if an attempted shot was made and the puck was caught or stopped by the goalie; a faceoff will then occur

There are plenty of other technicalities that go into hockey that is good to look into if you decide to play.

Scoring a Goal

For a goal to be scored, a player needs to hit the puck past the goal line, using any part of their stick or even their body. However, their hands are off-limits. The entire puck must then go past the goal line into the net to be counted as a goal.

In NHL games, this line has a sensor to tell when the puck crosses it. However, all games not in this league have the referee decide (if needed) whether the goal occurred. See the next section on how games are won.


A penalty will occur when a player, or multiple players, break the rules of the game. Based on the offence, the penalty will vary in time. Sometimes, it can result in the other team getting a penalty shot on goal. In some cases, it can get confusing, as penalties get sorted into being minor, major, misconduct, or match penalties, but the most common occurrences that cause either minor or major penalties are as follows:

  • Slashing another player
  • Tripping another player
  • Holding another player
  • Interference
  • Cross-checking
  • Roughing or fighting with another player

How Is a Game Won?

A game is won when one team has more points than the other team at the end of the third and final period. In some cases, the games will end in a tie and then proceed into overtime (OT), where an additional 5 minutes is played until one team scores a goal. Whoever scores first wins the game. If neither team manages to score a goal in the extra time, they will then move into a shoot out.

A shoot out is when each team will pick three players to rotate, taking penalty shots against the other team’s goaltender. Each team will switch taking shots, where the winning team is the team that scored the most goals out of the three chances they had.

However, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, shootouts do not occur, and instead, they will use as many overtime periods as necessary to determine a winner.

How Long Is a Hockey Game?

How long a hockey game lasts is dependent on many things and differs based on the level of hockey being played.

For lower-level hockey with younger kids, games are about an hour-long as the clock runs the entire time. For the recreational level, it’s about an hour to an hour and a half.

However, once players advance, the game’s length gets much longer and is the longest of all for NHL players during the playoff season. As for game time, gameplay lasts 60 minutes and is the same for every level, except for younger children’s leagues.

However, in higher levels, they add in intermissions to give the players a chance to rest and use the restroom, among other things. This may occur both after the first and second periods or may happen after the second period. In the NHL, intermissions occur after the first and second periods and last approximately 17-18 minutes. Additionally, stoppages will occur every once in a while as well, as a result of:

  • A team scoring a goal
  • Assessing a goal
  • A player gets a penalty
  • The goalie freezes (stops) the puck when a shot is attempted
  • Players get into a fight
  • Someone gets injured
  • An offside is called
  • An icing is called, also covered in more detail in our article describing icing calls and why they matter.
  • The net is moved
  • Something gets thrown onto the ice

All in all, making the games last anywhere from 2-3 hours on average. However, since there are no shootouts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, multiple overtimes can cause the games to last up to 4 hours or more.

What Are the Different Roles of Each Player?

The main reason hockey is a team sport is because each player is assigned a position where they play an individual part that contributes to the team’s goal. With each player having a set position, they must work as a team to get the puck into the opposing team’s net while preventing the other team from getting the puck into their team’s net.

Each player is picked for the position based on their designated skill sets, which are discussed below. Then they will put players of each position on the ice at a time, switching them out on shifts with the players on the bench. This way, each player on the ice is needed for the team to win.


The objective of the forwards is to score a goal on the opposing team. At any time, each team will have three forwards on the ice, one in the center, one over to the left, and one over to the right referred to as left and right-wingers or wings. Each of which has its own unique role on the ice.


The center is responsible for guiding the gameplay whenever the puck is in the offensive zone. Their responsibilities include being both offence and defence when needed, but overall they need to prioritize winning faceoffs. If they win them, their team gets the puck and has an advantage at getting a goal. They also need to support the left and right wings by making great passes, setting up plays, and leading the forecheck and backcheck.

The most essential skills that a center should possess include:

  • Ability to scan the ice, looking for open space and seeing where their teammates are
  • Great stickhandling, especially in tight spaces
  • Great passing skills

Left & Right Wing

The left or right-wings objective is similar to the center but plays the game off to the left or right side of the ice. Their responsibilities include:

  • Making good shots on the net, they are considered to be one of the primary goal scorers.
  • Making good passes to the center player.
  • Fighting for pucks when they are on their side up against the boards or in the corners.

Left wings are also responsible for securing the other team’s right defensemen and intercepting passes. They also need to remain open for breakout passes.

On the other hand, right wings are also responsible for backchecking other players if they get the puck and cover passing lanes to gain back possession of the puck.

The most essential skills that a left-wing should possess include:

  • Great wrist shot and great slap shot
  • Stronghold on the puck
  • Great vision to spot players who are open for passes

The most essential skills that a right-wing should possess include:

  • Great wrist shot and great slap shot
  • Ability to shoot around corners easily
  • Strong on their feet
  • Strong with their stick
  • Great vision to spot players who are open for passes


There will be two defensive players on the ice, one playing on the left side and one playing on the right. Their main goal is to stop the other team from scoring. So, they must block the opposing team’s shots, block open lanes and intercept passes, and battle with the opposing team’s left and right-wing to gain possession of the puck.

Defensemen are also responsible for controlling the play while the puck is in the defensive zone, which means they have to be careful how they play to avoid the opposing team getting a goal.

The most essential skills that defensemen should possess include:

  • Amazing skaters, both forwards and backward
  • High hockey IQ; ability to infer what the other team is doing while also analyzing where the puck is at all times
  • Great shooters
  • Great at passing
  • Great slapshot


The goalie is the player responsible for stopping the opposing team from getting a goal by whatever means possible. The most essential skills that a goalie should possess include:

  • Stopping shots on net
  • Skating skills
  • Rebound control
  • Can fill the space of the net
  • Make breakout passes
  • Direct teammates as they can see behind them
  • Stop dump-ins
  • Cut down the shooters angle

In addition to these positions, each position has a sub-category, where players will then be given roles to play while on the ice based on their physical abilities and skills. These roles include:

  • Sniper: Has the best shot and responsible for scoring goals when needed.
  • Playmaker: Great ability to pass and high hockey IQ, helping to set up other players to make goals.
  • Power Forward: Unique skill set used to battle opposing players to gain possession of the puck.
  • Two-Way Forward: Can do any task required of them, typically to help defensemen, complete faceoffs, and so on.
  • Grinder: Typically, the biggest forward players are used to block shots, make smart plays in the defensive zone, and kill penalties.
  • Enforcer: The most aggressive players, used to rough up and frustrate the opposing team.
  • Offensive Defensemen: Make great shots and handle the stick well.
  • Shutdown Defensemen: Used to shut down the other team’s players and goal scorers. Have extraordinary defence abilities.

The Best Part About Playing Hockey

The best part about hockey could be winning or getting to skate around and shoot a puck, but many people will tell you the best part is getting to be a part of a team. Not just be a part of it, but also make friends with other players on the team, travel to tournaments with a team, have plenty of laughs with a team, and all in all just be surrounded by a group of people that share a similar interest to you.

You also get to represent a city or a state when you play on a team, giving you a higher sense of purpose and friendship with the people you play with. Also, be sure to read our article listing thirteen reasons why hockey is fun to play.

The Best Part About Watching Hockey

The joy of watching a hockey game comes from seeing your team or your favourite team win against the other team. It doesn’t matter which player scored the goal or how many shots on net occurred; it all comes down to who won the game, showing that hockey’s real love is found within the teams.

You may also want to take a look at our article covering why watching a hockey game is such a fun activity.

Final Thoughts

Hockey typically has a team of 20 players that rotate and switch shifts during a game. Each player on the team plays a part where the team would be lacking without one of them.

During the game, every player then relies on the other players to do their part and trust that they will do their part. Overall, reinforcing the idea that hockey is a sport that relies on each player doing their part and on a team working together to beat the opposing team.