The Differences Between Field and Ice Hockey

The Differences Between Field and Ice Hockey

Ice hockey and field hockey require dedication and strong hand-eye coordination. The foundation of both sports is quite similar: work with your team to score a goal against the opponent. Yet, several aspects of the game divide the two. If you want to know more about the differences between field and ice hockey, continue reading below!

Where Do They Play?

The first difference between the two sports involves the different types of terrain they play on.

Ice hockey plays on the ice at a skating rink, and professionals almost always play it indoors. The standard dimensions for ice hockey rinks are 200 feet by 85 feet, which is much smaller than where field hockey teams play.

Field hockey occurs on either artificial turf or grass field. The field is 100 yards long and 60 yards wide, which is equivalent to the dimensions of football and soccer fields.

While the dimensions of an ice hockey rink are significantly smaller than the dimensions of a field hockey field, each player exerts an immense amount of energy in either game.

What Equipment Do They Use?


Ice hockey players use ice skates to rush down the endzone and slam an opponent against the boards. Field hockey players wear cleats with longer rubber studs that dig into the ground to provide strong footing and aid in momentum.

For both sports, you need to be incredibly strong and quick on your feet. Whether you skate or run, you need to be fast and in control of your movements and intentions.

Using a Ball or Puck

For ice hockey, players use a vulcanized rubber hockey puck. It’s an exceptionally durable, smooth material that glides across the ice. Field hockey competes using a ball made of PVC material. It’s a smooth, seamless ball that travels back and forth down the field with the players.

Hockey Sticks

Let’s talk about something similar about both sports: they both use hockey sticks to move the puck or ball back and forth through each endzone. Ice hockey sticks consist of wooden materials or sturdier carbon fiber threads. A field hockey stick utilizes composite materials like fiberglass and carbon.

The design of the hockey sticks differs in their shape, size, and how the players hold them. For example, field hockey players hold the hockey stick with their left hand at the top of the stick, no matter their dominant hand. Ice hockey players receive sticks that suit their dominant hand. An ice hockey player’s dominant hand determines their position on the ice as well.

What Are the Rules?

Just because both sports include hockey in the name doesn’t mean they play the same.

Ice Hockey Rules


Professional, regulation hockey games last a total of 60 minutes divided into three 20-minute periods, with two intermissions. After the whistle blows, intermission passes, and the crew cleans the ice, professional ice hockey can last for 2.5 to 3 hours.

High school ice hockey is a little different than the professional sport’s time length. There are three periods in total; each lasts from 15 to 17 minutes. In total, high school ice hockey may last for up to 1.5 hours.

Players on the Ice

There are six players from each team on the ice at a time: five skaters plus the goalie. There are two defensemen and three offensive players. The offensive position titles include left wing, right wing, and center.

Hockey players move quickly, constantly rushing back and forth from offense to defense. Due to the quick bursts of energy these players encounter, the average on-ice shift time is about 45 seconds. In professional hockey, the teams typically create four sets of players that skate together for a shift. With 20 minutes of play each period, these quick shift changes are essential to keep up the energy for the game.


There are two main types of penalties in ice hockey: minor and major penalties.

Minor penalties are 2 minutes long, giving the opposing team a one-player advantage on the power play. If the opponent scores on the power play, the penalty ends.

A major penalty is a severe rule infraction that can last for 5 minutes. Even if the opposing team scores during the power play, the player advantage doesn’t end. Any general penalty can be a major penalty if the action put another player at severe risk.

Common penalties include the following.

  • Cross-Checking: A player uses the stick between two hands to forcefully hit the opponent.
  • Slashing: The player strikes the opponent with the stick.
  • Goalie Interference: A player initiates contact and impairs the opposite team’s goalie.
  • Holding: A player holds or grabs the opponent, restricting their ability to play.

Field Hockey Rules


Field hockey games are a total of 60 minutes separated into four 15-minute quarters. High school field hockey games are the same duration as in the professional league.

Players on the Field

There are 11 players for each team on the field at a time: 10 field players and a goalie. With a lot more ground to cover than on an ice hockey rink, field hockey needs several more players.

The 11 players consist of one goalie, one sweeper, three defenders, two midfielders, and four forwards.

The forwards are the primary offensive players that are most likely to score a goal. The midfielders play a versatile role; they can assist with defense and offense at any point in the game. Lastly, the defense role consists of the defenders and the sweeper. These four players, alongside the goalie, constantly their territory until the offense can take the ball back to the other side of the field.

Fouls and Punishments

Some of the fouls in field hockey include the following.

  • Advancing: A player pushes or shoves the ball using a body part instead of the stick.
  • Obstruction: A player using their body or stick to prevent the opponent from reaching the ball.
  • Sticks: A player dangerously raises their stick in the air toward another player.
  • Backsticks: The player hits the ball with the rounded back of the stick rather than using the front of the stick.
  • Undercutting: A player lifts the ball in the air in a threatening manner.

When a foul occurs on the field, there are three different punishments a team can receive: a free hit, a penalty corner, or a penalty stroke.

Each foul and penalty are in place to keep players safe and maintain order. You need to be a physically talented athlete and have the necessary skills to avoid receiving fouls that impact the team.

There is a strong physical demand for both sports. No matter which you prefer, the differences between field and ice hockey are what make each sport incredibly fun to watch and play.

If you’re cold on the ice or outside on the field playing hockey, you may need a men’s thermal base layer from Hot Chillys to manage body moisture as you play!

The Differences Between Field and Ice Hockey