Much like football, hockey is an 11 a-side team invasion sport with the primary objective of scoring more goals than the opposition. There are 4 basic categories of position: Goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward, all with similar roles to play as their respective footballing counterparts. This, however, is where the comparisons end.
The game takes place on an synthetic astroturf surface, rectangular in shape, and measuring 100 yards by 60 yards. This area is separated into 4 equal quarters of 25 yards in length, with 2 semi circles, 16 yards in radius, at either end of the field.
Each team will have a squad of between 16 and 18 players who will all play thanks to rolling substitutions (as many as 40-60 per match).
This continuous change of playing personnel makes for a much faster and more intense game. Players at the top level will not only cover more metres per playing minute than their footballing counterparts, but they will also do so at a far greater average speed, with many more high intensity efforts.
Unlike football the playing ball is manoeuvered using a stick as opposed to your feet (in fact the use of feet is forbidden). Goals can only be scored from within the shooting circle (also known as the D) and the ball must touch an attacking players stick within this scoring area before the ball crosses the goal line in order for the goal to stand.
Infractions during the game, such as the use of feet; over physicality or obstruction will lead to a free hit (like a free kick). Thanks to the ‘self pass’ rule, these free hits can be taken quickly, without the need to pass to a teammate, further increasing the speed at which the game is played.
If any of these fouls are committed by the defending team within their own defensive shooting circle then a penalty corner will be awarded. This gives the offensive team a set-piece opportunity to score with the help of a numerical advantage.
In order to deter players from repeat offences, there is a card system in place. Unlike football, you can be temporarily, as well as permanently, suspended from the game. There are 3 colours of card: green, yellow and red.
A green card will be issued for minor fouls and leads to a 2 minute suspension. A yellow card for more serious offences, including professional fouls and the illegal denial of a goal scoring opportunity. These can result in a 5 or 10 minute suspension depending on the severity of the offence. And red cards for dangerous play, acts of malice and repeat yellow card offences, which result in permanent expulsion from the game (but they are rarely dished out).
At elite, international level, the game is now played in 4 periods of 15 minutes with the match clock paused for any significant stoppage like penalty corners or injuries.
There are short 2 minute breaks between the 1st and 2nd quarters and the third and 4th quarters with a longer 10 minute break at the half way stage. At lower levels, hockey has maintained it’s more traditional 2 halves of 35 minutes.
There isn’t any. Simple as that. Done away with in the mid 90’s, the removal of the offside rule from hockey has revolutionised the game. More goals, less stoppages and so much quicker, present day hockey is a far more entertaining spectacle. Good news all round then!