So, you’re thinking about strapping blades to your feet and playing one of the most thrilling sports on the planet? That’s fantastic news, though it might be slightly intimidating, especially if you never played ice hockey. But hey, even the pros were beginners once, right?
Regardless of your age, and whether you’re thinking about playing ice hockey as a hobby, a recreational sport, or playing in a major league, all beginnings are tough. Luckily, we can help you mitigate some of that initial awkwardness of entering the rink and chasing the puck like a headless chicken by offering some hockey tips for beginners. Here’s what you need to do…
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Secure The Proper Hockey Equipment
It’s pointless to purchase brand new, top-tier ice hockey equipment when you’re just starting out. Instead, you can borrow equipment or purchase some of it used or inexpensive until you decide that ice hockey is truly for you. However, this doesn’t apply to hockey sticks and ice hockey skates.
When choosing an ice hockey stick, it’s rather important to consider your height to avoid putting too much stress on your body. Please refer to our guide on How to Size a Hockey Stick, to avoid any damage or potentially unnecessary purchases. Keep in mind that you don’t need a hyper-performing expensive hockey stick when you’re starting out.
The same rule applies to hockey skates – never purchase used hockey skates. Modern hockey skates are usually thermoformed around the wearer’s feet, and while you can put them on, skating in them will undoubtedly hurt your feet. The best approach here is to purchase a cheaper pair of beginner-level ice hockey skates. Please refer to our Best Ice Hockey Skates guide for a recommendation.
Know Your Dimensions
While on the subject of hockey equipment, it’s essential to take your measurements into account when selecting a piece of equipment or an equipment kit. As we previously mentioned, this relates to hockey skates and sticks the most, but also to other equipment, like protectors, knee pads, and helmets.
Ice hockey is famous for physical violence, but you’re more likely to suffer injuries from a puck or another hockey player’s stick rather than his fists. So, make sure to invest in a proper safety kit, which includes proper gloves, shin guards, shoulder and elbow pads, and two most important safety pieces: a mouthguard and a groin guard. Practice putting on your safety equipment at home to avoid wasting time during hockey practice.
Learn How To Skate
Learning how to skate before committing to ice hockey is a sensible idea. Knowing how to skate puts you a few steps ahead compared to other beginners who are still learning the basics of ice skating. As a result, you’ll be able to focus on honing your ice hockey skills almost from the get-go.
And if you happen to decide that ice hockey isn’t your type of sport, you’ll be left with a valuable and beneficial skill. Ice skating works for nearly every muscle group in the body, synchronizing the movement of your extremities, and builds up your legs and abdominal muscles. So, it’s not bad off-season training for a beach body.
With that said, putting on a pair of skates at your local rink isn’t a bad way of learning how to skate. However, it’s always best to go prepared, so please refer to our info guide on How To Ice Skate For Beginners.
Hockey is a physically demanding sport, and though you’ll achieve a greater level of fitness through hockey, it’s best that you go into the sport prepared. So, take up ice skating, and hit the gym a couple of times a week to elevate your fitness level. It would benefit your play in the long run and increase the effectiveness of your hockey training.
Work On Your Technique
Learning how to skate is the bare basics of ice hockey. To hone your other hockey skills, try playing street hockey on inline skates, mimicking some of the movements of the actual ice hockey game. Transitioning from street hockey to ice hockey is much easier than going immediately to ice hockey. Though, admittedly, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Make sure to keep your head up, your stick on the ice, and your eyes on the puck. Skating with your stick in the air or not paying enough attention to the game will impact your ability to receive a pass or shoot the puck. And keeping your head down is equal to begging for an injury.
Main Rules And Structure of the Game
Ice hockey is a very simple game but has some incredibly complicated rules. The entire game can be broken down into the following: you skate, you pass, you shoot, and with some luck and skill, you score. But it’s still worth knowing the basics.
The most basic rules are similar to football/soccer; the main objective is to score more goals than the opposing team before the time runs out. Additionally, each goal counts as one on the scoreboard. But there are other rules that regulate the game.
- Offside – play is declared “offside” when an attacking player enters into the offensive zone, with both skates over the blue line, before the puck does.
- Icing – When a team shoots the puck from their own side across the opposing team’s goal line, icing is called. Icing is one of the more complex rules, as it has certain exceptions depending on the situation. Please refer to our guide for a more elaborate explanation of Icing In Ice Hockey.
- Face-offs – Each play begins with a face-off and ends with a score or by referee’s intervention (usually by blowing a whistle).
There are two distinct penalties in ice hockey: minor and major penalties. A minor penalty lasts for two minutes, while major penalties may last up to 10 minutes, or the duration of the match. Penalized players serve their penalties in the penalty box, jokingly called the sin bin.
However, while the penalized hockey player serves his penalty, the opposing team is given the advantage of power play, which lasts through the duration of the penalty. Power play means that the penalized player can’t be substituted on ice by another player. There are some exceptions to the power play and its duration, but they are far too abstract to explain in this article.
Hockey lingo consists of unique slang words that players and fans use to describe hockey-specific things or events, so much that it might be confusing to a beginner. The long list of ice hockey slang keeps on getting added to every year, growing into a language – a lingo of its own, sometimes requiring its own dictionary.
The long list of hockey slang keeps on getting added to every year, growing into a language, a lingo of its own, sometimes warranting its own dictionary. It would be quite helpful if you looked some of the words up to prevent yourself from looking oblivious during locker room discussions.
Players and Positions
Each team has six players on the ice at one time, playing at six different positions:
- Goalie – goalie’s job is to prevent the puck from entering their net
- Defense players – positioned left and right near the goal, these players are tasked with stopping the forward players of the opposing team from obtaining the puck. They’re also offensive support when their team possesses the puck.
- Forward center – covering the center of the ice on both ends of the rink and responsible for face-offs to regain possession of the puck
- Forward wings – also positioned left and right; these players are responsible for play along the sides of the rink. While they are mostly offensive players and primary goal scorers, forward wings do have some defensive responsibilities if the situation demands them.
It’s worth noting that a goal can be scored by any player on the ice, including the goalie, though this is a rare occurrence.
Finding A Team Near You
You can find plenty of information about anything online nowadays, and that includes finding an ice hockey team near you. Your best bet is to check with your national Ice Hockey Association, as it usually has a listing of all the ice rinks and registered teams, and ice hockey schools. Your second-best option is to check your local listings.
These were the basic ice hockey tips every beginner should know before entering the ice rink. Keep in mind that they’re not mandatory knowledge but just tips and tricks that’ll help beginners better grasp the game.