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One of the fastest of all games, ice hockey is played on an oval rink 185 to 225 foot long and 70 to 100 foot wide. The rink is surrounded by a board wall about 4 feet high. Two goal nets, each of which is attached to a frame 4 feet high and 6 feet wide, are situated 10 feet from the ends of the rink. The playing area is divided by two blue lines into three zones of equal size. The zone nearest a team's goal is called its defense zone central zone is called the neutral zone, and the farthest goal, nearest the opponent's goal, is called the attacking zone. In pro hockey the rink is also divided in half by a red line.
Each team consists of 6 players, including one center, two forwards, two defensemen and one goalkeeper. Each skater carries a wooden stick having a shaft no more than 53 inches long and a blade no more than 14.75 inches long and 3 inches wide, except for the goalkeeper, whose blade is 3-5 inches wide. A small disk of hard rubber, 3 inches in diameter and one inch thick, called a puck, is used instead of a ball. A point is scored when the puck is driven into the opponents' goal.
Play is begun with a face-off, a play in which the referee drops the puck between the opposing centers. The puck is driven or passed with the sticks. Only the goalkeeper may hold the puck with his hands, however other players are allowed to knock the puck out of the air with their hands, and they are allowed to push or direct it to a teammate when in their defensive zone. The puck may be passes from one player to a teammate, but it must precede and offensive player entering the attacking zone. If a player crosses the blue line on the edge of the attacking zone ahead of the puck, the play is offside, and a face-off is held in the neutral zone near the spot where the infraction occurred. The puck cannot be passed across two lines by the defense. When the puck is shot the length of the rink without touching an opponent's stick, it is called icing and the puck is returned for a face-off near the defenders' goal.
The game is divided into three 20-minute periods with a change of goals at the end of each period. If the game is tied at the end of the third period, an additional 10-min. period is played; if the tie is not broken at the end of this period, the game ends in a tie. Penalties are given for interference, holding, excessive roughness, or other infractions of the rules. The offending player is sent to the penalty box for 2 minutes for minor infractions and 5 minutes for major infractions, such as fighting. The penalized player's team may not use a substitute during the player's penalty period, except when the player is given a misconduct penalty. The chief officials of an ice-hockey game are the referee and two linesmen.