Getting Ready for Tokyo 2020: All You Need to Know About Hockey Rules!

A brief guide of hockey rules



Hockey has been a part of the Olympics ever since 1908, with over a hundred years old legacy, it is one of the premier team sports that will be a feature in Tokyo this year.
The matches will start on July 24 at the Oi Hockey Stadium. The group stages will continue till July 31, the quarter-finals will be on August 1 and the gold medal fixtures are scheduled for 5 August (men’s) and 6 August (women’s), both on the North Pitch.
For the occasion, the Olympic Channel made a brief, but very useful, guide with the main rules to understand the matches and enjoy them at their maximum next July.

Pay attention!

Match Duration: A match consists of four quarters of 15 minutes with an interval of two minutes between each quarter, and a half-time interval of five minutes.

Composition of Teams and Substitutions:  Each team has 11 players on the pitch including one goalkeeper. There are five substitutes on the bench and there is no limit to the number of times a player is permitted to be substituted.

Important: During play, goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with any part of their body, while field players can only play the ball with the flat side of their stick.

How a goal is scored: A goal is scored when the ball completely gets over the goal-line and under the cross-bar from within the striking circle. A striking circle is an area that comes under a quadrant arc 14.63m from the goal-line. There is another dotted arc 5m outside the striking circle and the ball must not travel past the dotted line during a penalty corner.

Match Result: The team that scores the most goals wins a game. If the numbers of goals are tied, the match is considered a draw. If the match is a knockout game, then it progresses to a penalty shootout. In a penalty shootout, the attacker has a one-on-one situation where he is up against the goalkeeper. The attacker starts on the 23-metre line with the ball and the goalkeeper starts on the goal line. When the whistle is blown, both can move and the attacker has eight seconds to score a goal past the goalkeeper. If during the eight-second window, the goalkeeper makes a save and the ball rolls out of play, the chance is over. If the ball stays within the field of play and time remains, the forward can retrieve and try again. The penalty shoot-out will see five attempts from each team and if scores are tied at the end of this, it progresses to sudden death with the same designated players until we get a winner.

Free Hit: A free hit is awarded to a team if the opposing team commits a foul. During a free hit, the ball must be stationary and opponents must be standing at least 5 meters from the ball. From a free hit awarded to the attacking team within the 23 meters area, the ball must not be played into the striking circle until it has travelled at least 5 meters.

Long Corner: A free hit from the 23-metre line – called a long corner – is awarded to the attacking team if the ball goes over the back-line after last being touched by a defender, provided they do not play it over the back-line deliberately, in which case a penalty corner is awarded. This free hit is played by the attacking team from a spot on the 23-metre line, in line with where the ball went out of play.

Penalty Corner: A penalty corner is awarded for an infringement within the striking circle during a play that does not prevent a probable goalscoring opportunity, as deemed by the referee. If an intentional offence takes place outside the striking circle but within the 23-metres area, then the referee can award a penalty corner. If the ball is lodged in a player’s clothing or equipment or touches the feet of a defender while inside the striking circle, a penalty corner is awarded. A penalty corner is also awarded if a defender deliberately plays the ball over the backline. However, goalkeepers are allowed to deflect the ball past the backline. A penalty corner is considered a very important part of the game and is an excellent opportunity for teams to score a goal. During a penalty corner, the ball is placed 10 m from the goal post on the backline. While taking a penalty corner, a player has to hit the ball without raising it from the ground. He must have at least one foot outside the field while initiating the penalty corner. The rest of the attacking team should be outside the striking circle. In a typical penalty corner, the attacking player on the backline will push the ball to a player at the top of the circle who will stop the ball just outside the circle. Another player will take the stopped ball and push or drag it back into the circle before attempting to shoot at goal. Whereas not more than five defenders, including the goalkeeper, must be positioned behind the goal line. Once the ball is played to the edge of the circle, the defenders are free to charge down the impending shot.

Penalty: If a foul occurs inside the striking circle that prevents a goalscoring opportunity, a penalty is awarded. The ball is placed on the penalty spot which is 6.475 meters from the goal-line. The goalkeeper must stand with both feet on the goal-line and, once the whistle has been blown to start the penalty stroke, must not leave the goal-line or move either foot until the shot has been taken.


Cards and Caution

  • A player can be temporarily suspended for 2 minutes by flashing a green card. For the next offence, he is shown a yellow card and can be suspended for a minimum of 5 minutes. A player can be permanently suspended from the current match if shown a red card.
  • The intended duration of a temporary suspension may be extended for misconduct by a player while suspended.


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