Hockey Terms, Rules: Viewer's Guide to the Basics

What's icing? Just how high is a high-stick? Some rules of the game and terms to know as the LA Kings take on the New York Rangers for the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers will likely attract viewers who are new to the fast-paced sport. Below, an introduction to some of the rules and terms to know as Los Angeles and New York face-off.

About the Playing Surface

First off, the surface markings -- lines, circles and dots -- that provide the ground rules for the action. Here's a look at some of the most commonly referenced parts of the ice.

Neutral/Defending/Attacking Zone:
The area in the center of the rink between two blue lines is the neutral zone. The defending and attacking zones are all about one's perspective. The part of the rink in which a goal is located is called the "defending zone" of the team defending that goal. The part of the rink on the other end from that goal is that team's "attacking zone."

Blue Line: These two lines separate the attacking and defending zones from the neutral zone.

Center Line: The red line running side-to-side smack in the middle of the rink.

Goal Line: The red line between each goal's posts measures two inches wide and extends completely across the rink. The puck must entirely cross the goal line between the goal posts and below the crossbar for a goal to be scored.

Goal Crease: The location in front of the goal designated by a semi-circular area that extends just beyond the sides of the goal posts.

Goalkeeper's Restricted Area: The trapezoid-shaped area marked by red lines extending behind each goal. "Should a goalkeeper play the puck behind the goal line outside the designated area behind the net, he shall be assessed a minor penalty for delay of game."

Face-Off Spots: Face-off spots are marked by dots -- two in both end zones on each side of the goal, two near each blue line in the neutral zone and one at center ice.

Common Penalties and Other Rules

Penalties can shift the advantage to one team and make all the difference in a game, so it's good to know what will catch an official's attention. Below, some of the most common penalties as outlined in the NHL rulebook.

Boarding: When a player "checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently."

Charging: "Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner."

Clipping: "The act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent."

Cross-Checking: When a player uses the shaft of his stick -- the area held between two hands -- to forcefully check an opponent.

Fighting: Disagreements happen. And when they do, officials have the unenviable job of stepping in between. From Rule 46.1: “A fight shall be deemed to have occurred when at least one player (or goalkeeper) punches or attempts to punch an opponent repeatedly or when two players wrestle in such a manner as to make it difficult for the linesman to intervene and separate the combatants.” Officials have broad latitude when it comes to the type of penalties handed out, including a five-minute major, 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct.

High-Sticking: In broad terms, a player is responsible for his stick. When a player carries his stick above the height of an opponent's shoulders and contacts the opponent with the stick, officials will be looking for anything not considered accidental or part of a normal motion.

Holding: When a player "retards the progress of an opposing player whether or not he is in possession of the puck."

Hooking: The act of using a stick to restrain an opponent.

Roughing: When a player use "a punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent."

Slashing: Swinging a stick in a "forceful or powerful chop" at an opponent.

Too Many Men on the Ice: Assessed when a player on the bench comes onto the ice "before his teammate is within the five foot limit of the players' bench.

Basically, using a "stick, knee, foot, arm, hand or elbow" in any way that causes the opponent to trip or fall.

Icing: One of the most common reasons for a stoppage in play. "Should any player of a team, equal or superior in numerical strength (power-play) to the opposing team, shoot, bat or deflect the puck from his own half of the ice beyond the goal line of the opposing team, play shall be stopped."

Off-Side: Players on an attacking team cannot enter the attacking zone before the puck. "A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line involved in the play."

Other Things to Know

Line Changes: Unlike basketball or football, player substitutions are made on the fly and can, under strict rules, be made after stoppages.

Periods: An NHL game is divided into three 20-minute periods. Play resumes after intermissions "upon the expiration of seventeen minutes or a length of time designated by the League from the completion of play in the preceding period."

Overtime: There are no ties in the playoffs and overtime rules are different, and less complex, than the regular season. If a game is tied after three 20-minute periods, the teams play additional 20-minute periods until someone scores a goal.

Series Format: The teams will play a best-of-seven series with the first two games in Los Angeles and the next two in New York. If needed, Game 5 would be back in LA, Game 6 would be in New York and Game 7 would be in LA.

The Stanley Cup: The reason everyone is here -- one of the most stately and storied trophies in professional sports. Bands around the Cup are inscribed with team members' names and members of the winning organization are awarded a day with the Cup -- a tradition that has taken it around the world.

The Handshake: There will be hitting, punching, shoving and a complete disregard for self preservation through four games or more, but the two teams will line up after the final game and shake hands at center ice. It is one of the great spectacles of sportsmanship.

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