Differences Between Ice Hockey And Field Hockey

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Written By Margaret Satchell

I love helping people get in shape by playing sports instead of just boring gym routines. Live life to the fullest.





If you’ve ever watched a game of hockey and found yourself confused about whether it’s played on ice or a field, you’re not alone. The world of hockey is divided into two popular variations: ice hockey and field hockey. While they share a name and some basic rules, there are some key differences that set them apart. Whether you prefer the fast-paced intensity of ice hockey or the finesse and strategy of field hockey, understanding these distinctions will help you appreciate both sports even more. So, grab your stick and let’s explore the exciting world of hockey!


Ice Hockey Rules

Ice hockey is a fast-paced and exciting sport played on ice, with two teams competing against each other. The objective of the game is to score goals by shooting the puck into the opponent’s net. To ensure fair play, ice hockey has a set of rules that players must adhere to.

Some of the key ice hockey rules include:

  1. Offside: Players cannot enter the opponent’s zone ahead of the puck. If a player crosses the blue line before the puck, it results in an offside penalty.

  2. Icing: When a player shoots the puck from behind the center red line into the opponent’s zone without it being touched by any player, icing is called. This leads to a faceoff in the offending team’s zone.

  3. Tripping: A player is not allowed to trip an opponent by using their stick or feet. Tripping results in a minor penalty.

  4. Checking: Physical contact is allowed in ice hockey. Players can use their body to legally check opponents who possess the puck. However, there are specific rules regarding checking from behind, checking to the head, or boarding, which can result in penalties.

Field Hockey Rules

Field hockey, on the other hand, is played on a grass or turf field, with two teams of players using sticks to hit a ball into the opponent’s goal. The rules for field hockey differ slightly from ice hockey due to the different nature of the playing surface.

Here are some important field hockey rules:

  1. Obstruction: Field hockey players are not allowed to use their body or stick to obstruct an opponent who is trying to reach the ball. This rule promotes fair play and ensures that players have a chance to tackle for possession.

  2. Penalty Corners: When a defending team commits a foul within their own shooting circle, the opposing team is awarded a penalty corner. During a penalty corner, attackers have an opportunity to take a shot at the goal with only defenders and the goalkeeper present.

  3. Stick Obstruction: In field hockey, players are prohibited from deliberately using their stick to obstruct or interfere with an opponent’s stick. This rule prevents unfair play and ensures that players have an equal chance to control the ball.

  4. Green, Yellow, and Red Cards: Field hockey also uses a card system to penalize players for various offenses. A green card is a warning, a yellow card results in a player being temporarily suspended, and a red card leads to expulsion from the game.

Playing Surface

Ice Hockey Surface

Ice hockey is played on a rink made of ice, which provides a fast and slippery surface for the players. The dimensions of an ice hockey rink can vary, but the standard NHL rink is approximately 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. The ice surface is enclosed by boards and glass to contain the puck within the playing area.

The ice is divided into three zones: the offensive zone, the defensive zone, and the neutral zone. The blue lines separate these zones and play a crucial role in determining whether a player is offside or icing is called.

Field Hockey Surface

Field hockey is played on a grass or synthetic turf field. The dimensions of the field are typically 100 yards long and 60 yards wide for international matches. The field is marked with lines to define boundaries and other essential areas, such as the shooting circle and the centerline.

The shooting circle, also known as the D, is a semi-circular area in front of each goal, where goals can be scored directly. The field is also divided into halves, and there are dotted lines and circles to mark specific positions and areas on the field.

Differences Between Ice Hockey And Field Hockey


Ice Hockey Equipment

To play ice hockey safely, players require specific equipment to protect themselves from injuries and enhance their performance. Here are the essential ice hockey equipment items:

  1. Helmet: A helmet with a face cage or shield is crucial to protect the player’s head and face from injury, such as concussions or cuts.

  2. Shoulder Pads: Shoulder pads provide protection to the player’s upper body, including the chest, shoulders, and spine.

  3. Elbow Pads: Elbow pads are designed to protect the player’s elbows and forearms from impacts and falls.

  4. Gloves: Ice hockey gloves cover the player’s hands and offer protection from pucks, sticks, and falls. They also provide a good grip on the stick.

  5. Shin Guards: Shin guards protect the player’s shins and knees from slashes, pucks, and collisions with other players.

  6. Skates: Hockey skates are crucial as they allow the players to move smoothly and quickly on the ice. They have a blade attached to the bottom that provides traction on the ice.

Field Hockey Equipment

Field hockey players also require specific equipment to ensure their safety and enhance performance. Here are the essential field hockey equipment items:

  1. Mouthguard: A mouthguard is necessary to protect the player’s teeth and jaws from injuries caused by sticks or balls.

  2. Shin Guards: Similar to ice hockey, field hockey players wear shin guards to protect their shins and knees from impacts and slashes.

  3. Gloves: Field hockey gloves offer protection to the hands and provide a good grip on the stick. They are less padded compared to ice hockey gloves.

  4. Sticks: Field hockey sticks are unique to the sport, with a flat side and a rounded side. They are made of composite materials and come in different lengths, depending on the player’s position.

  5. Masks/Faceguards: Some field hockey players, especially goalkeepers, may wear masks or faceguards for additional protection.


Ice Hockey Stick

In ice hockey, the stick is a vital piece of equipment used to control and shoot the puck. Ice hockey sticks are typically made of composite materials such as carbon fiber or fiberglass, which provide strength and flexibility.

The size of an ice hockey stick varies based on the player’s preference and position. Defensemen often prefer longer sticks for better reach and poke-checking ability, while forwards may opt for shorter sticks for increased maneuverability and control.

Field Hockey Stick

The field hockey stick is a fundamental part of the game, used to pass, dribble, and shoot the ball. Unlike ice hockey sticks, field hockey sticks have a flat side and a rounded side. The rounded side is used for controlling the ball, while the flat side is used for striking passes and shots.

Field hockey sticks come in various lengths, typically ranging from 36.5 to 38.5 inches. The choice of a stick’s length depends on the player’s height and position. Forwards often use shorter sticks for better ball control, while defenders prefer longer sticks for increased reach and tackling ability.

Differences Between Ice Hockey And Field Hockey


Ice Hockey Puck

In ice hockey, the puck is a hard rubber disk that serves as the primary object of play. The puck is approximately three inches in diameter and one inch thick. Its weight varies between 5.5 and 6 ounces.

The puck is designed to slide smoothly across the ice surface, allowing players to pass, shoot, and maneuver it with their sticks. The hard, solid construction of the puck enables it to withstand the impact of high-speed shots and physical play.

Field Hockey Ball

Field hockey uses a small, hard ball made of solid plastic or cork. The ball is around 2.5 inches in diameter and weighs approximately 5.5 ounces. The surface of the ball is typically smooth to allow it to roll smoothly on the field.

The field hockey ball is designed to be easily controllable and maneuverable with the stick. Its size and weight allow players to pass and shoot accurately, and the smooth surface reduces friction on the grass or turf.


Ice Hockey Duration

Ice hockey games are divided into three periods, each lasting 20 minutes, for a total of 60 minutes of playing time. However, the clock stops during various situations, such as penalties, injuries, timeouts, and video reviews. This can extend the total duration of the game.

In professional ice hockey, if the game ends in a tie after regulation time, it goes into overtime, which is an additional period of five minutes, played with three skaters per team. If no goal is scored in overtime, the game may proceed to a shootout, where each team has a chance to score against the opposing goalie.

Field Hockey Duration

Field hockey games are traditionally played in two halves, each lasting 35 minutes, resulting in a total playing time of 70 minutes. However, the duration may vary depending on the level of competition and age group.

Unlike ice hockey, field hockey games do not have overtime periods or shootouts for resolving ties. In the event of a tie, the result may stand, or the game could proceed to a penalty shootout, depending on the specific tournament or league rules.


Ice Hockey Scoring

In ice hockey, scoring a goal occurs when a player successfully shoots the puck into the opponent’s net and it crosses the goal line. Each goal is worth one point, and the team with the most goals at the end of the game is the winner.

In the NHL, if the game is tied after regulation time, teams are awarded one point each. If the game goes into overtime and a team wins, they earn an additional point. However, the losing team in overtime does not receive a point.

Field Hockey Scoring

In field hockey, a goal is scored when a player shoots or deflects the ball into the opponent’s goal, and it crosses the goal line. Each goal is worth one point, and the team with the most goals at the end of the game is declared the winner.

Unlike ice hockey, field hockey does not have a specific system for awarding points to teams after regulation or overtime. The team with the most goals wins, and if the game ends in a tie, it may proceed to a penalty shootout to determine the winner.


Ice Hockey Penalties

Ice hockey has a range of penalties that are enforced for various rule infractions. Penalties are categorized as minor, major, or misconduct, depending on the severity of the offense. When a player is penalized, they are required to serve a specified amount of time in the penalty box, and their team must play shorthanded.

Common ice hockey penalties include:

  1. Tripping: When a player uses their stick or body to trip an opponent, it results in a minor penalty.

  2. Hooking: Hooking occurs when a player uses their stick to impede an opponent’s progress. It also leads to a minor penalty.

  3. Boarding: Boarding happens when a player pushes or checks an opponent violently into the boards. It can result in a minor or major penalty, depending on the severity.

  4. Fighting: Ice hockey allows fighting to some extent, but it is still penalized. Players engaging in regular fights are given major penalties, with subsequent penalties resulting in ejections.

Field Hockey Penalties

Field hockey also has penalties for rule violations, although they are generally less frequent and severe compared to ice hockey. Penalties in field hockey result in either a free hit for the opposing team or a penalty stroke if an offense occurs within the shooting circle.

Some common field hockey penalties include:

  1. Obstruction: Obstructing an opponent with the body or stick results in a free hit for the opposing team.

  2. Stick Obstruction: Using the stick to obstruct an opponent’s stick leads to a free hit for the opposing team.

  3. Foot Obstruction: Players are not allowed to intentionally use their feet or legs to obstruct an opponent. This rule violation results in a free hit for the opposing team.

  4. Foul Tackling: Tackling from behind, using excessive force, or endangering an opponent’s safety can result in a penalty stroke, a penalty corner, or a suspension, depending on the severity.

Physical Contact

Ice Hockey Physical Contact

Physical contact is an integral part of ice hockey, and players are allowed to engage in body checking to legally separate opponents from the puck. However, there are limitations and restrictions to maintain a balance between physical play and player safety.

Some key points about physical contact in ice hockey include:

  1. Checking: Players are permitted to use their body to check an opponent who possesses the puck. However, specific rules govern checking from behind, checking to the head, or boarding, which can result in penalties or even ejections.

  2. Fighting: While fighting is generally penalized, it is not entirely eliminated from ice hockey. Players engaging in a fight may be given major penalties, and repeat offenders may face suspensions.

  3. Protective Equipment: The use of protective equipment, such as helmets and padding, helps minimize the risk of injury during physical contact and collisions.

Field Hockey Physical Contact

Field hockey has more limited physical contact compared to ice hockey. The emphasis is placed on skillful play, agility, and technique, rather than aggressive physicality. The rules aim to maintain fair play and prevent injuries.

Here are some points about physical contact in field hockey:

  1. No Body Checking: Unlike ice hockey, body checking is not allowed in field hockey. Players cannot use their bodies to obstruct or knock opponents over.

  2. Fair Challenges: Field hockey focuses on fair challenges for the ball. Players can use their sticks to tackle opponents, but they must do so safely and within the rules.

  3. Referee Intervention: Referees closely monitor play and intervene when physical contact becomes excessive, dangerous, or detracts from the fair play of the game.

Popular Countries

Ice Hockey Popular Countries

Ice hockey is particularly popular in several countries, and it enjoys a strong following in these regions. Some of the countries known for their prowess in ice hockey include:

  1. Canada: Ice hockey is deeply ingrained in Canadian culture, and Canadians are passionate about the sport. Many NHL players hail from Canada, and the country boasts a rich history of success in international tournaments.

  2. United States: Ice hockey has seen significant growth in popularity in the United States. The sport has a strong presence at both the professional and collegiate levels, with teams competing for the prestigious Stanley Cup.

  3. Russia: Russia has a long-standing tradition of producing world-class ice hockey players. The country’s professional league, the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), is highly competitive and attracts top talent from around the world.

Field Hockey Popular Countries

Field hockey is played and enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. Some countries have a strong tradition in field hockey and consistently perform well at international competitions. Here are a few nations known for their field hockey prowess:

  1. Netherlands: The Netherlands is widely regarded as a powerhouse in field hockey. The women’s national team has achieved tremendous success, winning multiple Olympic gold medals and World Cup titles.

  2. Australia: Australian field hockey teams, both men’s and women’s, have a strong pedigree and a history of success. The nation consistently produces top-quality players who excel on the international stage.

  3. India: Field hockey has a special place in India’s sporting culture. The Indian men’s team achieved great heights in the past, winning multiple Olympic gold medals. The game continues to be popular and enjoys a large fan base in the country.

In conclusion, while ice hockey and field hockey share similarities in terms of gameplay, they also have distinct differences. From the rules and equipment to the playing surface and physical contact, each sport has its own unique characteristics. Understanding these nuances can help players, fans, and enthusiasts appreciate the intricacies and enjoyment that come with playing and watching both ice hockey and field hockey.

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