The Ultimate Guide on How Do Offsides Work in Hockey?

If you are new to hockey, there are some essential rules to learn. Without knowing these rules, you might not understand what is going on in the game. Offsides are one of those rules.

How Do Offsides Work in Hockey?

Offside is called in hockey when a players cross the blue line of the attacking zone before the puck crosses this line. The position of the skates determines if the offside has occurred. If a player with both the skates enters the blue line before the puck, this is offside. The referee calls the offside, and a faceoff takes place.

If one of the skates crosses the blue line and the other is on the line, this is onside. The position of the hockey stick does not matter in this regard.

What is the Blue Line for in Hockey?

Now, you might wonder what the blue line is and its purpose in hockey. Let us try to understand. The hockey rink has three zones:

  • Defensive zone
  • Neutral zone
  • Offensive zone
zones of ice hockey rink
Zones of Ice Hockey Rink

Two blue lines separate the rink into these three zones. These blue lines are also crucial in preventing the players from entering the offensive zone, which helps in preventing the play from being more offensive than defensive. Players with the puck cannot enter the offensive zone before the puck. If they do, it is an infraction.

How Does the Offside Rule Work?

The above was the basic information about the blue line. So, what is the offside rule, and how does it work? Players cannot cross the blue line before their puck.

What the players do is that two players go towards the blue line. One of the players carries the puck, and the other does not. The one without the puck enters the blue line by putting his skates on the blue line or ahead of it.

The other player crosses the blue line with the puck during this time while keeping his skates behind. By doing this, they avoid the offsides. Sometimes, players also straddle the line. They put one foot in the attacking zone and the other in the neutral zone. This also does not qualify for an offsides offence.

What Happens When a Player Goes Offside?

The linesman determines the offside infraction in the play. When the offside occurs, he blows a whistle and stops the play. After this, there will be a faceoff in the neutral zone, close to the blue lines.

When Has the Puck Determined to Have Got into the Zone?

According to the rules, the puck crosses the defensive zone crossing the whole blue line. The observers will be able to see the ice between the puck and the blue line. After the entry of the puck into the defensive zone, the players from the other side may enter the zone now.

What is a Delayed Offside?

To maintain the game’s flow, the game must stop as few times as possible. To achieve this goal, the NHL has devised specific rules, one of which is the delayed offside. When a player enters the defensive zone before the puck, but the other team recovers the puck and can move it out of their zone, this is called delayed offside. The linesman does not blow the whistle in this case. The players who had gone offside can exit the offence zone before entering again.

What Happens If the Puck is Cleared Out of the Defensive Zone?

Contrary to this, the puck leaves the zone when it enters the neutral zone again after crossing the blue line. Upon the puck leaving the zone, the offensive players also have to leave the offensive zone. Hence the teams try to bring the puck out of the zone, across the blue line. Because when the puck goes out, the offensive players must also go out of the zone, which lifts the pressure away.

2021 Update to The Offside Rule?

The NHL updated the offside rule at the start of the 2021 season. If even one player’s skates touch the blue line, he will be considered onside. In the older rule, at least one skate needed to touch the blue line to consider the player onside. It is now changed. If the skate does not pass the blue line above it, it is onside, and there is no offence.

Why Do They have Offsides? The History of Blue Lines and Offsides in Hockey

The above was a discussion on what the offside is. But why it is. Why did the NHL introduce this offside rule? At the beginning of the NHL formation, the hockey rink used to be a little different. The ice on the rink had no lines over it. The only lines on the ice were the goal lines.

The NHL introduced the blue lines in the 1918 – 1919 season. At that time, there was no concept of passing forwards in the NHL hockey games. Due to the different and a little complex rules, it wasn’t easy to score in the game. The NHL introduced forward passing in the 1928 – 1929 season to change this situation.

When the forward passing was introduced, the players in the offensive zone started staying in their zone to wait for the long pass when the puck was on the other side. The NHL introduced another rule to change this playing style: the offside. This rule ensures that the forwards do come back.

What is the Offside Challenge? 

If the goal is scored and the opposing team is doubtful, they can use a coach’s challenge and ask for a video review of the goal to determine if the goal was offside.

Upon the video review, if the officials determine that the play before the goal was offside, they disallow the goal. If the play was not offside, the challenging team gets a minor penalty. There are two cases in which the play is not offside:

  • When a defensive player tries to shoot the puck out of their zone, but it hits another player and bounces back into the defence zone.
  • An offensive player shot the puck into the defensive zone when an attacking player is there in the zone.

And because a lot of players were getting offside with many goals stopping, the NHL amended the rule of offside, which we have talked about above.

The Bottom Line on How Do Offsides Work in Hockey?

In summarizing, this is all about offside. What is an offside? We call offside when a player (his skates actually) enters the offensive zone before the puck does. And what are the further implications and details of offside? We have discussed this briefly in the article.

Happy Understanding!

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