ICE Hockey

Hockey Organization and Participation

  • USA Hockey, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the national governing body for ice hockey in the United States and the official representative of the US Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation. USA Hockey works in conjunction with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

  • During 1968–1969, 3800 teams were registered with USA Hockey. During 1993–1994, 21,150 teams with approximately 340,000 players were registered. Between 2005 and 2006, over 442,000 players and 58,000 coaches were registered. For 2014–2015, USA Hockey reported over 530,000 male registrants. USA Hockey had over 477,000 males participating in hockey in 2019–2020. Over 380,000 are age 18 or younger. According to the National Federation of High School Associations (NFSHA) statistics for 2018–2019, 1628 boys’ teams representing 19 states and almost 36,000 players participated in interscholastic hockey.

  • Women’s hockey continues to grow in popularity. The number of female hockey players registered in 2014–2015 was almost 70,000. Of these, almost 52,000 were ≤18 years. In 2019–2020 USA Hockey registered over 84,000 females with over 65,000 age 18 or younger. NFHSA data show 642 girls’ high school hockey teams representing 14 states with over 9600 participants. Between 1995 and 1996, 38 women’s teams competed in an interscholastic competition held in Minnesota. During 2018–2019, 243 teams competed, representing over 2300 athletes. A first state high school tournament for girls was held in Minnesota in 1995. Despite the growth in women’s hockey, in a few states, girls are still competing on boys’ youth hockey teams.

  • The NCAA has 41 women’s teams competing in Division I and 67 in Division III. For men, the NCAA reports 61 teams competing in Division I and 84 in Division III. There are no Division II ice hockey teams.

  • The Canadian Hockey Association, or Hockey Canada, represents the governing body for amateur hockey in Canada. They have over 621,000 registered players. Of these, approximately 522,000 are males.

Junior Hockey (Ages 16–21)

  • Canada has two levels (Major Junior, Junior A)

  • Unites States has three levels (Tiers I–III)

Professional Hockey

  • Professional hockey in the United States and Canada is represented by the NHL and minor league affiliates.

  • European professional leagues include teams from Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Denmark.

  • The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) currently consists of six teams who play for the Isobel Cup as league champions. This has been contested since 2016, although women’s professional hockey has been in existence since 1999.

  • Age range of organized competition: 5 to >50 years.

  • Age group divisions are determined by birth date as of August 31 of each year ( Table 80.1 ).

    Table 80.1
    Age Group Divisions Determined by USA Hockey
    Level Boys (Years) Girls (Years)
    U8 ≤8 ≤8
    U10 ≤10 ≤10
    U12 ≤12 ≤12
    U14 ≤14 ≤14
    U16 ≤16 ≤16
    U18 ≤18 ≤18
    Senior >19 >19

  • Regarded by most as the fastest competitive team sport.

Game of ice Hockey


  • Professional, college, adult: three 20-minute periods

  • High school: three 17-minute periods

  • Youth: three 12- to 15-minute periods

Team Composition

  • Eighteen players and two goalkeepers (usual position distribution). Six players compete at one time: three forwards, two defensemen, and one goalie.

  • Goalkeeper (goalie): The player who tends the goal to catch or deflect the puck and prevent the opponent from scoring

  • Forwards (left wing, center, and right wing): Offensive-minded players who attack the opponent with an intent to score a goal; also assist defensemen in protecting their goal

  • Defensemen (left and right): Primary responsibility is to protect their goal and the goalie to prevent the opponent from advancing to the net to score

  • A substitution may occur during play (“on the fly”) or during time stoppages for violations, goals, or penalties


  • Should be 200 by 100 feet; smallest recommended dimensions are 185 by 85 feet.

  • Should be surrounded by wooden or fiberglass boards 40–48 inches high with a yellow or light-colored kickplate at bottom; it is recommended that a safety glass or another protective screen encircle the rink.

  • The goal should have dimensions of 4 feet high by 6 feet wide and should have metal goalposts and a crossbar and net surrounding the metal framework.

Special Equipment

  • The puck is vulcanized rubber, 1 inch thick and 3 inches in diameter, weighing 5.5–6 ounces.

  • Hockey stick

    • Forwards and defensemen: the blade is usually made of wood (the shaft may be made of other materials) with the shaft <63 inches, blade <12.5 inches long by 2–3 inches wide, and curve not exceeding 0.75 inches

    • Goalie: wood shaft <63 inches with the blade <15.5 inches long by 3.5 inches wide, and curve not exceeding 0.75 inches


  • The skill in skating involves three factors: angle of propulsion (angle formed by the skate blade in the direction of the skate), angle of forward inclination (body lean), and length of the stride.

  • Shooting

    • Types of shots: standing wrist shot (sweeping action with the stick terminating in wrist snap and follow-through), skating wrist shot (similar to a standing wrist shot except that a player has forward momentum while skating; most accurate), standing slap shot (the stick and blade are brought back a variable distance, followed by a vigorous forward motion and “slapping” at the puck like a golf swing; least accurate), and skating slap shot (greatest velocity)

    • Maximal velocity is the result of the strength of arm and shoulder muscles and full trunk rotation

  • Passing

  • Stick handling: Ability to advance the puck while maneuvering on ice

  • Checking: Intentional contact with an opponent who is in possession of the puck, using the hip or shoulder; a player may check from the side, diagonally or frontally, approaching with no more than two skating strides. In 2011, USA Hockey changed the age at which checking could be introduced from PeeWee (U12) to Bantam (U14) based on injury data showing decreased injury and concussion rates at the U14 level.

  • Goal tending: The goalkeeper (goalie) tends the goal and is protected by special equipment and pads to catch or deflect the puck from the goal.

Safety and Protection

Protective Equipment

  • Goalie: helmet, mask, throat protector, chest protector, cup, thick-padded shin guards, blocker (worn on one hand), trapper (device to catch the puck, worn on the opposite hand), skates that are unique to protect the goal and goalie

  • Forward and defense: helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, padded gloves, cup, breezers (padded hockey pants to protect the sacrum, coccyx, and pelvis), shin guards, and skates

  • Face masks

    • Full face masks required at youth and high school levels in 1975; Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference mandated use in 1977; NCAA required use in 1980; helmets required in NHL; visors (half-face shields) were required for all players new to the NHL as of the 2013–2014 season. For players entering the NHL before 2013–2014, face masks (visors) remain optional.

    • Effects of full and half-face shields (college level, Canada):

      • Full shield: 61.6% had at least one injury

      • Half shield: 63.2% had at least one injury

      • Risk of facial, dental injury: 2.3 times greater with half shield

      • Risk of concussion: Concussion rates are higher in those wearing the half shield compared with those wearing the full face mask

Rules to Protect Players

  • Penalties: 2 minutes (minor), 5 minutes (major), 10 minutes (major), or a combination

    • Offending player must sit in a designated penalty box, and his or her team must play with one less player on ice (“shorthanded”). If two penalties are assessed against the team, it must play two players short. Team never has to play more than two players short.

    • For 10-minute penalties, offending team does not have to play shorthanded. They lose services of that player for that time interval.

    • Single or multiple game disqualifications may be assessed, depending on severity of infraction.

  • Goaltender protection: no unnecessary body contact with goalie; the “crease” is the goalie-protected area in front of goal where opposing players cannot enter without a puck. If a goaltender loses his helmet, the play is immediately stopped.

  • Common penalties enforced for protection of players:

    • Cross-checking: using shaft of stick with both hands to check opponent

    • Hooking: using blade of stick on opponent’s body to block or impede opponent’s progress

    • Slashing: striking or attempting to strike opponent by swinging stick

    • Spearing: poking or attempting to poke opponent with blade of stick

    • Interference: impeding progress of opponent not in control of the puck

    • Charging: using more than two skating strides to check the opponent

    • Checking from behind

  • Officiating: Three to four officials enforce rules, assess penalties, and award goals

Physiology of ice Hockey

Skating Stride

  • Three phases: Single leg support, single leg glide, and double leg support (preparation for propulsion)

  • Propulsion: When extending knee joint in skating thrust, quadriceps develop largest contractile force. Hamstrings and gastrocnemius stabilize knee during weight shift and push-off.

  • Stride rate is related to skating velocity. Stride length is unrelated except in young hockey players.

  • Faster skaters show better timing in push-off mechanics, with resultant push-off in the direction perpendicular to the skating direction. Elite skaters sustain the gliding phase longer.

  • In players aged 8–15 years, increases in velocity are accompanied by increases in stride length and no significant change in the stride rate.

  • To accelerate quickly, players should attempt full extension of hip, knee, and ankle.

  • With fatigue, decrease in skating velocity is caused by decreased stride rate (slower leg extension and longer glide phase) and excessive forward lean.

  • Typical game skating behavior is a complex activity involving repeated accelerations, decelerations, turning, and stopping. Complicating skating behaviors are upper body activities of stick handling, shooting, passing, and checking.

Physical Characteristics of Hockey Players

  • Professional players are taller and heavier on average than college and junior players.

  • Defensemen are taller and heavier than forwards.

  • Body composition (% fat)

    • Junior: 8.6%–13.6%

    • College: 8.6%–10.7%

    • Professional: 9.7%–14.2%

    • Forwards and defensemen have equal body compositions.

    • Goalies, on average, have higher body composition than forwards and defensemen.

Energy Expenditure

Physiology has been primarily studied in adult, elite hockey players, which underscores the uncertainty of applying this science to youth hockey.

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