The Finer Points: Faceoffs

Faceoffs may only last a second, but there are a number of things happening in the circle you may not be aware of. (clydeorama/Photoree)

Faceoffs are one of the most common occurrences in hockey. They start each period and are what resumes play after any stoppage. And while it may not seem like it, there is a lot more to just dropping the puck and letting the two centres go at it. There are a number of rules both players and the linesman must adhere to.

The Faceoff Dots

There are nine total faceoff dots on a hockey rink. The first is a one-foot diameter, blue dot on centre ice with a 30-foot diameter blue circle surrounding it that no player, other than those participating in the faceoff, may enter until the puck is dropped. There are four in the neutral zone, two that are five feet outside each blueline, and two in each attacking zone that are 20 feet from the goal line. These dots have a two-foot diameter and are painted red, with three-inch white sections at the top and bottom of the circles. The circles in the attacking zone have a 30-foot diameter red circle around them, though the ones in the neutral zone do not.

Faceoff Location

The puck will be dropped at a different location depending on what caused the stoppage in play. The faceoff is at centre ice:

  • At the beginning of every period
  • After each goal scored

The puck is dropped in the neutral zone:

  • When play is stopped because of an attacking player in the attacking zone (e.g. shooting the puck out of play)
  • The puck goes illegally into the net off a player (e.g. kicking motion, high sticking, etc.)

There is an attacking zone faceoff when:

  • The goaltender freezes the puck
  • A power play begins
  • The opposing team ices the puck
  • The puck goes into the net illegally off the official

A faceoff will occur in the nearest circle

  • When both teams are assessed a penalty
  • When play is stopped for a reason not attributable to either team
  • When play is stopped for an injured player

The Setup

The teams have five seconds to prepare for the faceoff once the line changes have been completed. The faceoff starts with the two centres facing each other squarely with their backs to their respective zones. Their sticks must be on the ice within the three-inch white area on the faceoff dot with the visiting player placing his stick down first. While the centres are facing off, no other player is allowed within the area of the faceoff circle, or 15 feet if the faceoff is in one of the neutral zone dots. Unlike the two centres, the attacking team must be in position for the faceoff first, and then the defending team.


Sometimes you will see the centre kicked out of the faceoff circle; there are a number of reasons for this:

  • Improper positioning of the centre
  • Either centre not placing his stick on the ice or moving prematurely to the puck drop
  • Encroachment of another player within 15 feet of the faceoff dot.
  • A player lines up on his opponent’s side of the faceoff dot.
  • Any physical contact from one player towards another before the puck is dropped.

Should a violation occur a second time after the centre has already been replaced, the offending team will be assessed a two-minute bench minor for delay of game.

-Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor



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