Navigating the ice markings on an NHL rink


Gene Puskar / AP

The Pittsburgh Penguins skate Sunday May 29, 2016, during hockey practice at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are preparing for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the San Jose Sharks on Monday, May 30, in Pittsburgh.

Wed, May 17, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Five painted lines, nine dots, five circles and two trapezoids lie frozen in 10,600 gallons of water, all encased by fiberglass boards.

A standard National Hockey League rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. The 42-inch-tall boards — usually plastered with advertisements — hold panes of acrylic glass, which extend eight feet high behind the goals and five feet on the sides of the rink.

NHL rinks are covered with markings. Here’s a breakdown of what they all mean:


Center line

The red line that cuts the rink in half serves as its midway point. The only time the red line comes into play is determining whether or not icing is called. Players must be on the opponent’s side of the center line when they dump the puck into the offensive zone to avoid an icing call.

Blue lines

Blue lines are by far the most important lines in the game. There are two blue lines located 25 feet in both directions of the center line, which designate the offensive and defensive zone. Players can’t cross the blue line to enter the offensive zone until after the puck crosses the line or it’s offsides. Once the puck enters the zone, offensive players must keep it from exiting the zone. If not, every player must leave the zone before the puck re-enters.

Goal lines

Goal lines are the red lines at each end of the rink and 11 feet from the end boards. They line up with the goal crease, and the puck must cross this line to be considered a goal. The puck has to completely cross the goal line to count. The portions of the goal line that extend outside of the net come into play during icing situations. If a player clears a puck from his own side of the rink, the puck must cross the goal line in order for icing to be called.

Click to enlarge photo

A look at the marking on a National Hockey League rink.

Faceoff circles and spots

Neutral zone faceoff circle

This is the 15-foot circle in the center of the rink that is used for faceoffs to start the game, each period and after a goal is scored. Only the two players participating in the faceoff are allowed inside the circle until the referee drops the puck.

Neutral zone faceoff spots

There are four red dots near the blue lines that are 2-feet in diameter that designate where neutral-zone faceoffs happen. The faceoff takes place in the nearest neutral zone faceoff spot if:

• Offside is called

• The puck goes out of play in the neutral zone

• An attacking player creates stoppage in the offensive zone

• The puck goes out of play off an attacking player in the offensive zone

• An attacking player commits a goal-crease violation

• Fouls are committed by players on both teams simultaneously

• The attacking team commits a hand pass

• Offside is accidentally called by referee

End zone faceoff spots (Offensive or Defensive Zone)

On each end of the rink there are two 15-foot faceoff circles to each side of the goal with a red faceoff spot in the center. The faceoff takes place in the nearest end zone faceoff spot:

• If icing is called the ensuing faceoff is in the offending team’s defensive zone

• If the puck goes out of play off a defending player in his defensive zone (including the goalie)

• If a player commits a foul, the ensuing faceoff is always in his defensive zone unless:

• The penalty is called at the end of a period

• The team not being penalized ices the puck

• If goaltender freezes the puck in his glove, pads or underneath him, the ensuing faceoff is at the nearest defensive zone faceoff spot

Other markings

Goal crease

The blue-filled semicircle near the net belongs to the goaltender. The crease, outlined in red, is eight feet wide and extends six feet from the goal line. While attacking players are now allowed inside the crease (since 2000) they can’t interfere with the goalie’s ability to make a save. Interfering with the goalie results in an overturned goal, a penalty or both. Also, if a defending player other than the goalie covers the puck inside the goal crease it results in an automatic penalty shot.

Referee crease

This crease is a safe zone for referees. The 10-foot radius, red semicircle near the boards at center ice is next to the scorekeeper’s box, where referees consult calls or listen to reviewed plays. While this is happening no players are allowed within the crease to prevent them from arguing with the officials. Under some circumstances a team’s captain is granted permission to enter the crease to approach the referee.


The trapezoid-shaped box behind each net has been in the NHL since 2009 and is commonly referred to as the Martin Brodeur Rule because of the great goaltender’s ability to venture behind his net and play the puck. Goalies are only allowed to play the puck in the designated trapezoid area once it crosses the goal line. If he plays the puck outside of it in either corner he is given a 2-minute minor penalty for delay of game (Goalies don’t serve minor penalties; another player on the ice must instead serve it). The rule makes it difficult for goalies to clear the puck from their defensive zone, thus creating more offensive chances.

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at

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