How to play
Hockey is a very popular, fun, fast and skilful team game. It is a stick and ball game with origins dating back thousands of years. It was traditionally played on grass, but is now increasingly played on synthetic surfaces.
In a game of hockey, two teams of players compete against each other. There are up to 16 players in a team but only 11 can be on the pitch at the same time. The remaining 5 players are the substitutes and they can be used throughout the game.
The players use their hockey sticks to play the ball. They can hit the ball, push it, flick it, drag it, pass it and ‘dribble’ it. This means moving it while keeping it in very close contact with their stick.
The ball is quite small (about the same as a cricket ball) and it is usually white.
The aim of the game is to score more goals than your opponents and to do that you have to get the ball past the other team's goalkeeper, who protects the goal, and logically, tries to keep the ball out!
Every team must have at least one goalkeeper (some teams have a substitute goalkeeper too). All of the other players are referred to as 'field players', and are dispersed over the field of play. The field players can be put into three general categories - attackers, defenders and midfielders. While no player (other than the goalkeeper) has an exclusively defined role, the attackers are generally on attack, the defenders are generally on defence, and the midfielders do a bit of both!
An essential skill necessary for playing hockey is the ability to control, pass, push, stop and shoot the ball with your hockey stick. This is known as stick work, or stick handling. It is both beautiful and impressive to watch a player with good stick handling skills control the ball while sprinting the length of the pitch, or weave through the sticks and legs of defenders to create an open shot.
It is important to know that the head of a hockey stick has a rounded side (the right side) and a flat side (the left side). It is only with the flat, left hand side of the stick that you are permitted to play the ball.
It may seem like common sense, but it is worth mentioning that in hockey, the field players are not allowed to use their feet or any other parts of their body) to control the ball. Only the goalkeeper is allowed to use stick, hands, feet, etc. to stop the ball when defending in their own shooting circle.
Scoring a goal in hockey is very interesting. There are 3 types of goal. They are known as Œ a field goal a penalty corner, and Ž a penalty stroke.
A field goal is a goal scored from open, continuous play. Field goals may only be taken from the shooting circle, a roughly semi-circular area in front of the opponents' goal. If a ball is hit from outside the 'shooting circle' and goes into the goal, it does not count as a score.
If a defending team breaks certain Rules, the other team may be awarded a penalty corner. Often (but not always) penalty corners are awarded because a team breaks a Rule while defending in their shooting circle.
To take a penalty corner, play is stopped to allow the teams to take their positions in attack and defence. One attacker stands with the ball on a designated spot on the back-line. (It's the line that marks the shorter boundary of the field of play and on which the goal is placed.) This player will play (hit, push or drag) the ball to other attackers, waiting to take a shot at goal. The other attackers usually wait at the top of the shooting circle to receive the ball. But in any case, all attackers have to be outside the shooting circle until the penalty corner begins.
Up to five defenders (including the goalkeeper) position themselves behind the back-line (either inside or outside of the goal) to defend against the penalty corner. The rest of the defenders must stay behind the centre line until the ball is played (until the penalty corner is taken).
To actually take the penalty corner, the ball is hit, pushed or dragged to the attacker waiting to receive it. Before a shot on goal can be taken, the ball must first pass outside the shooting circle. Once this has happened the receiver usually hits, pushes or deflects it back into the shooting circle for the first shot at goal.
If the first shot is a hit (as opposed to other types of shots, like a 'flick' or a 'scoop'), the ball must enter into the goal at a height of no more than 460mm (or about 18 inches). It is usually pretty easy to tell if the ball is at the right height since the board at the back of the goal is the same height. When a goal is successfully scored, there is a familiar sound of the ball hitting the board, usually followed by players celebrating!
If the first shot is a 'scoop' or a 'flick' - shots that are lifted into the air and thus usually a little slower than a hit - then the ball can cross the goal-line at any height, as long as it is not dangerous play.
Once the attacker on the back-line starts the corner (plays the ball), the defenders on the back line may move into the shooting circle, and do their best to keep the other team from scoring.
It's a long explanation, but in practice, it all happens very quickly, and is exciting to watch!
A penalty stroke is a shot taken on goal by a chosen player and defended only by the goalkeeper. (All other players must stand outside the circle, about 23 metres/25 yards back.) A penalty stroke may be awarded for a few reasons, the most common being an offence by a defender in the circle to prevent the probable scoring of a goal. The shot is taken from a spot 6.4 meters (7 yards) directly in front of the goal. Match time is stopped when a penalty stroke is being taken.
DURATION OF A MATCH
A regulation length hockey match lasts 70 minutes - which is broken into two halves of 35 minutes each. The team with the most goals at the end of the 70 minutes is the winner. It is also possible for a match to end in a draw (or a tie). But in some matches - like in a tournament such as the World Cup or Olympics, or in a championship game - you must have a winner. In those cases, a match which is tied at the end of regulation time, then goes into extra time (the first team to score in extra time wins), and if necessary, to a penalty stroke competition