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You are in: SPORTS > Hockey > Rules

The rules of hockey


Hockey is played between two teams of 11 players and the objective is to score more goals in the two 35 minute halves than your opponents. The 10 outfield players can only hit the ball with the flat part of their sticks but the goalkeeper can use any part of his body to block its flight.

Restarting play

Should the game have to be stopped for an injury or both teams breaching the rules, a 'bully' will be used to restart proceedings. The ball is placed on the ground by the umpire between two opposing players. These players hit their sticks alternately on the ground and together three times, and then play at the ball. All other players must be at least five metres away.

Long corners and penalty corners

A long corner is awarded if a defending player unintentionally hits the ball over their back-line. The attacking team will then hit the ball into play from a spot on the side-line about five metres from the corner flag.

If a defending player intentionally hits the ball over the back-line, the result is a penalty corner for the attacking team. This is taken from a spot on the back-line nine metres from the nearest goalpost. The attacker will aim to pass the ball to a teammate just outside the goal circle and set up a shot.

Penalty strokes

A Penalty Stroke is awarded when any of the following occurs. i) an intentional offence by a defender in the circle to prevent a goal being scored or to deprive an attacker of actual or likely possessions of the ball. ii) an unintentional offence by a defender in the circle that prevents the probable scoring of a goal. iii) persistent early breaking off the backline by defenders at penalty corners.


To score a goal the ball must not only cross the goal line, but the shot must have originated from within the goal circle in order to count. The exception to this is if the ball is struck from outside the circle but deflects off an attacker's stick within the circle, thus scoring a goal

Dangerous play

Players are allowed to lift the ball off the ground but, as it is heavy and dangerous an official will judge how dangerous a ball is and rule accordingly. Sticks may also not be raised above the head.

Other rules
  • A game shall be played between two teams of not more that 16 players each, but not more than 11 players of each team shall be on the field at the same time. Each team is permitted to substitute from the maximum of 16 players.
  • When a goalkeeper lies on the ball, it is considered an obstruction.
  • For intentional offences, misconduct or dangerous play, a player may be warned with a green card, sin-binned for five minutes with a yellow card or sent-off with a red card.
  • If a player is substituted they may return at any point later in the game
  • Two umpires control a game, each generally covering three quarters of the pitch.
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