What is Offsides in Hockey?

Offsides is one of the more difficult rules to learn if you are new to the game of hockey.

We will be going through the different aspects of the rule in this article to help break it down.

One important thing is, don’t confuse this with field hockey, this article is only talking about ice hockey!

We will try to make this article as easy and straight-forward as we can, so bear with us if it gets confusing at times!

The three lines on the ice

On every hockey rink, there are three big lines cutting across the width of the rink, on directly down the middle and two off to the side.

The one going down the middle is colored red and is called the “Redline”.

This is where face-offs take place to start each period and after every goal scored.

The other two lines are blue and set the boundaries of each offensive zone at each end of the ice.

Those two lines are called the “Bluelines”.

The area between the two blue lines is known as the “Neutral Zone”.

What does offsides do?

Offsides is a rule that was first enacted for the National Hockey League in 1929.

The reason behind the rule is so players can’t stand by the opposing teams’ goaltender and simply wait for his teammate to lob a pass to him so he can get a clear shot at the net, unobstructed by the opposing teams’ defence.

Offsides prevent the player from entering the offensive zone if he doesn’t have the puck.

Offsides rule

The basic rule from the NHL’s rulebook states,

“83.1 – Players of the opposing team may not precede the puck into the attacking zone.”

Practically, this means that if you don’t have the puck, don’t go into the opposing teams’ zone until the player with the puck enters the zone before you.

A common sight you might see at hockey games are two players skating across the neutral zone, with the player who doesn’t currently have the puck dragging his feet to stay behind the attacking blueline.

This enables the player with the puck to sustain his speed and get into the attacking zone to try and create a play for the goal.

If the player without the puck would be one second too late and enter the attacking zone before the player with the puck, the play would be whistled down as offsides, and there would be a faceoff in the neutral zone thereafter.

All the momentum of that rush would be lost, and the attacking team would have to do it all over again!


Offsides is one of the most important rules in the game of hockey, without it the game would be reduced to a shooting frenzy with no regard for order, and much less creativity on the ice.

The rule forces player to think of ways to make plays that won’t get the play whistled down.

Thus creating an action-packed thrill ride the game has become.

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