The object of the game quite simply is to strike the ball with the hockey stick and knock it into the opponent's hockey net (6 feet wide x 4 feet high, 1.83 m x 1.22 m). Typically, a low-bounce type of ball is used. For added safety, hockey gloves and helmets are recommended, and in fact are mandatory for play in member leagues.
Any size or type of non-slip flooring can be used as a playing field. Most of the leagues operate in hockey arenas or gymnasiums. All events are held in full sized hockey arenas (generally around 200 feet long x 85 feet wide, 60.96 m x 25.91 m). However, smaller facilities for the Outdoor (Little) Rinks/Arena’s may be used for the sports outdoor version. When played on the surface of a hockey rink, six players, including the goalie, compete against the opposing team's six players. Extra players are usually kept on each bench, outside the playing surface, and interchanged with the six on the floor either during play or at a stoppage of play.
When played on smaller surfaces, fewer players can be used during play. In its simplest form, the game can be played without floor markings and few rules. However, in organized competition regular ice hockey floor markings are used, including goal lines, goal creases, blue lines, center line, face-off circles and neutral zone face-off dots. The following are additional rules:
* Face-offs(players are lined up facing each other in a designated area on the floor), are used at the start of each period of play and after goals, penalties, icing, offside, or when the ball leaves the playing area.
* Penalties are called when a player commits a foul. The offending player is then removed from playing for a period of time, depending on the severity of the infraction and the team continues play one player short until the penalty has elapsed.
* When an offside occurs Play is stopped. Before entering an opponent team's zone (the area from behind their net to their blue line) the ball must cross the blue line first before the player or any of his teammates.
* Icing (or flooring) occurs when a team shoots the ball before the player physically crosses the center line and the ball passes the opponent's goal before any player, of either team, can touch it. A stoppage of play shall occur with the ensuing faceoff taking place in the end zone of the team that shot the ball. If the goalie touches the ball, or the shot creates a goal, there is no icing on the play.
* "Floating Blue Line": expansion of the offensive zones occurs once a team crosses the opponent's blue line with the ball. The attacking team will then have half of the entire playing surface within which to control the ball, from behind the opponent's goal to the center line of the area. If the defending team sends the ball past center, the zone is reset to the blue line and their opponent must regain it as explained above.
* To score a legal goal, it cannot be kicked in; struck with a stick above the shoulders; pushed in using the hand, or while offside.
Games may vary in length, for example two 15 minute periods, but are generally played with either two or three periods of equal time. Where a time clock is available, there is a stoppage in play, after a goal, penalty, offside, icing, ball out of play, or goaltender holding the ball for more than a few seconds. If a clock is not available, or the time available to play is limited, running time periods may be used, for example three 15 minute periods.