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Oliver Goldsmith
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 4:22am


There are many, many rules imposed on the game of hockey. Some rules may be evident and self-explanatory while others have reasons that may not be so obvious. In either case, a rule is usually a generalized course of action or behavior which serves the purpose of eliminating cheating to ensure safety and fair play.

The following are highlights of rules for various hockey topics and the reasons for their existence.

On-Ice Rules
On-ice officials (referees and linesmen) enforce the rules during a game. Their number one priority is to make sure that there is fair play and safety for all.

The leagues empower their officials to carry out the rules and it is the duty of everyone involved in hockey to work with them to ensure that they are followed. These on-ice rules are called penalties and suspensions. They directly affect the players, coaches and teams during a game.

In Canadian hockey, the rules are written by Hockey Canada and their regional branches. In the United States , USA Hockey and its regional offices share the same duties.

Off-Ice Rules
Off-ice rules for minor hockey cover a variety of topics. Rules for positions such as team administration and management are subject to suspensions or fines instead of penalties. Administration rules must be followed to ensure that proper registration forms for players, coaches and other personnel are filled out correctly. Coaching and training staff must be properly certified. Coaches and players must respect territorial boundaries. Off-ice rules tend to focus on the exactness of proper documents, registration processes and territorial jurisdiction for teams, leagues and regional offices.

A player can lose focus and hurt another line mate, coach or opponent. Rules serve to protect everyone. It is necessary to have a punishment system to penalize the aggressor. This process allows the player to calm down and take time-out alone before continuing to play. When this does not work, the player can be removed from the game and given suspensions. Minor hockey emphasis is on skill development, which leaves little room for rule breakers.

League Rules
Leagues set rules for teams and their personnel to ensure that the players receive proper attention and training. Rules are enforced by having disciplinary hearings, passing out suspensions and demanding financial compensation. Leagues also have to follow rules set by their governing body and is held responsible to its teams. Having appropriate personnel present at each game and proper scheduling of games are duties that a league is responsible for. Their number one priority is safety and fair play by all involved.

Association Rules
An association is a governing body in a specific country or region responsible for writing the bylaws that leagues, organizations and sanctioned tournaments must follow on or off the ice. Guidelines for coaches, officials and trainers are under their jurisdiction. Rules applied in a game are under their control and are written and followed in a specific manner. They are responsible for respecting the community's needs and abiding by the governmental laws. Associations do answer to ruling bodies and have rules imposed on them at an international level. Rules for on-ice or off-ice activities are laid out in detail by associations, regions and leagues. Standards for equipment worn by players, coaches, officials and trainers are adhered to by the association rules. Ice surface measurements and facility requirements are identified. Duration, scheduling and location of games are communicated in a variety of ways. Each country's governing body sets rules dependent on their local needs, laws and limitations.

Governing bodies and hockey associations have someone to answer to other than those who play, coach, manage and volunteer. Insurance companies are significant influencers in the development of the rules. For example, a Hockey Canada rule states that players must wear a helmet and face shield while on the ice. The primary reason is for medical coverage. Insurance companies will not cover costs related to injuries if the above example is not followed.

The Law
The laws of the country, province, state or region supersede the rules of the game. Whenever there is intent to injure or a player commits severely violent actions, the matter might be taken to court. The league's disciplinary board and local law enforcement will review each incident. It is only a game as long as the law does not get broken.

Coaches and players must be mindful of the precise steps to be followed when going from one team to another or from one level of hockey to another. A coach can be charged with tampering which can result in the league conducting a hearing and most likely suspending and fining that coach. A player might lose the opportunity to play for that team and also face a suspension. If the coach initiates the conversation of recruiting, then he could be accused of tampering with another team's player. As a player, if you choose to move to another team, make sure it is for the following reasons:

  1. It is an opportunity to develop yourself as a player (i.e. move from one calibre to another).
  2. It will improve your family's quality of life - less driving distance or lower financial demands.

Strict rules are imposed upon by college and university hockey teams by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the US and the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) in Canada . In order for students to play for a college or university hockey team, they must attend that school. Players who want to attend an institution must contact the coach and the school to determine their specific requirements. Coaches and recruiters need to know that a player is a quality student before they can accept him.

NCAA Rules to be admitted to an American college or university:

  • The student/player must have a minimum ACT or SAT score.
  • The student/player must never have been paid or compensated in any way to play hockey.
  • The student/player must never have signed an agreement with an agent for the purposes of marketing his hockey services.
  • The student/player must pass a series of drug tests.
  • Players must maintain a 75% average in school.
  • Coaches must follow recruiting rules.

CIS Rules

  • The student/player must be attending the school.
  • The student/player must never have been paid or compensated in any way to play hockey.
  • The student/player must pass a series of drug tests.
  • Players must take a minimum number of schools.
  • Coaches must follow recruiting rules.

Table of Hockey Rules
Below is a table listing some of the key rules, who they affect and what type of penalty or punishment can be involved.


a player is relieved of his duties or let go by the team
can be either a league hearing or a court hearing
a player or coach is not allowed to perform duties for a period
a fee assessed for breaking a rule

Rules About...

Governing Body of Rule
(Rule Enforcer)

Type of Punishment



Coach /Team /League / Association /Law /Insurance

On-ice penalties /Suspensions / Hearings /Fines / Released


Team/ League/ Association/ Insurance

On-ice penalty/ Suspensions/ Fines

Conduct on-ice

Coach/ Team/ League/ Association/ Law

On-ice penalty/ Suspensions/ Hearings

Conduct off-ice

Coach / Team / Law

Suspensions/ Hearings/ Released/ Fines

Dress code

Coach / Team

Suspension/ Fines


League / Association

Suspension/ Released/ Fines

Eligibility/ Jurisdiction

Schools / Teams / Leagues / Associations

Suspension/ Released



Credentials/ Certification

Team/ League/ Association

Suspension/ Released/ Fines

Game conduct

Team/ League/ Association/ Law

Penalties/ Suspension/ Hearings/ Released

Off-ice conduct

Team/ League/ Law

Suspension/ Hearings/ Released/ Fines

Dress code

Team/ League

Suspension/ Fines

Conduct with personnel


Suspension/ Released



Certification/ Advancement

League/ Association

Suspension/ Released

Game conduct

League/ Association

Suspension/ Fines/ Released



Suspension/ Released

Post-game duties

League/ Association

Suspension/ Fines


League/ Association/ Insurance

Suspension/ Fines/ Released



Paperwork & administration

League/ Community/ Insurance

Fines/ Hearings/ Suspensions

Recruiting/ Releasing staff

League/ Branch/ Association

Suspensions/ Fines




Association/ Law/ Insurance

Fines/ Hearings/ Suspensions




Law/ Insurance

Fines/ Hearings/ Law suits




Team/ Law

Fines/ Hearings




Association/ Team/ Community/ Player/ Coach/ Insurance/ Law

Fines/ Hearings

Learn more about RULES
This is Hockey Canada's homepage
The is USA Hockey's homepage.
This is NCAA's homepage.
The is the Canadian Universities homepage.

The Hockey Source does not necessarily endorse all the information on the linked pages it provides.

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