In the scrappy world of street sports, games are guided by the most basic considerations -- things like weather, space, and necessity. Things like what's on hand. A baseball and catcher's mitt? A soccer ball? A hockey stick, dead tennis ball and cinder blocks?
If it's the latter, you've got the makings of the most basic game of street hockey imaginable. Truly, you don't need much -- just a stick, a ball that'll stay down, and a way to designate a boundary so you know where to shoot. Think of it as ice hockey without the ice -- and with a somewhat-reduced need for padding.
The goal is the same: to send the ball through your opponent's goal and to stop your opponent from sending it through yours. Of course, to this end, padding doesn't hurt, especially where inline skates are involved. But even when the footwear is sneakers, making for a slower game, some protective equipment is recommended -- after all, you're playing on asphalt. There's not a whole lot of give.
So, how to get into this game of hockey you can play outside in the summer months? First, you'll need some equipment. While the needs are pretty minimal as far as absolute necessity goes, the street-hockey arsenal can get a lot more involved if you play in one of the hundreds of organized leagues throughout North America…
Street Hockey Equipment
If you've ever played ice hockey, you know what you need for the street version of the sport: basically, everything except the ice skates (and the ice).
At the absolute minimum, all you need is a hockey stick, a non-bouncing ball or puck, and something -- anything -- to designate the goals on either end of the court. That could mean cinder blocks, bricks or a couple of La-Z-Boys.
Ideally, though, it means actual goals, and especially ones with nets.
Whether you're playing on a low-traffic street, on a park basketball court or in an indoor arena, proper equipment helps. The array of desirable street-hockey gear includes:
- Means of play: Hockey stick (without the tape, which would cause too much friction), no-bounce ball or puck, goal markers (either makeshift or a true goal, with posts and a net), and some way to delineate the center line of the court
- Uniform: Comfortable clothing and either sneakers or inline skates
- Protection: Helmet with face mask, chest protection and gloves for the goalie, and athletic cups (if male), shin guards and knee pads for every player on the court. Additional padding and helmets for all are even better.
You really do need protection: While there's no checking allowed in street hockey (more on this later), and no one's going to be slamming your head into the boards, a nice head-first tumble onto the asphalt will smart a bit. So do helmet it up, if possible.
Once you're all set gear-wise, you'll need some players and an arena -- and we use the term "arena" loosely here…
Street Hockey Positions and Court
As in the gear requirements, street hockey mimics ice hockey in its surroundings and personnel. Basically, you replace the ice with concrete and pare down the number of positions, and you've got yourself a regulation street-hockey game. To be more specific:
The "rink" is any smooth, flat, wide-open area, typically concrete or asphalt. Ideally, minimum dimensions will be about 80 feet wide by 160 feet long (24 by 48 meters). Smaller or larger is fine, though, based on available space. The game can be played on tennis courts, low-traffic streets, basketball courts, indoor gyms, and anywhere else that proves conducive to sliding a ball along the ground into a goal.
The positions: You want six players on each side (with an additional six each for substitutions, especially when using sneakers instead of skates -- that game is all running). Positions are:
- Forwards (3): Right, Center and Left: The forwards, who play offense, are usually led by center (this position takes most of the face-offs), and they try to score. Each begins in his or her own area of the forward line, but can take each other's places as the ball moves around so the full forward court is always covered.
- Defenders (2): Right and Left: Defenders play, you guessed it, defense. They remain behind the forwards, and their job is to prevent the ball from entering their own goal. Like the forwards, the defenders will switch positions to make sure both sides of the court in front of the goal are always covered.
- Goal tender (1): The goalie's job is to defend the actual goal. If the ball makes it past the defenders, the goalie will need to prevent it from entering the goal. He or she can accomplish this in any way, including blocking it, catching it, kicking it or deflecting it. Since the goalie doesn't run (or skate) much, there's usually just one who plays the whole game.
The referee watches the action to make sure rules are followed and, when play is stopped due to penalty, goal or out-of-bounds, conducts the face-off to resume play. The ref has the final word in all game-play decisions.
While not absolutely essential in casual play, a ref is a valuable asset and will be making calls. Street hockey, at least in true "street" form, might be less formal than ice hockey (or not), but that doesn't mean there are no rules to follow…
Street Hockey Rules
In street hockey, the gameplay itself looks like ice hockey. There's a face-off to start play, in which the two centers vie for initial control of the ball. Each team tries to send the ball through the opposing goal, passing between players and covering their designated space on the court.
When there's a penalty or regulatory violation, the non-offending team, typically the center, gets control of the ball (and in the case of a penalty, the offending player sits out for one minute). In regulation street hockey, as described by NHL Street, penalties and violations are similar to ice hockey and include:
- Icing -- Shooting the ball from one end of the court (on your side) to the other without any opposing player touching it
- Off-sides -- Stepping (or skating) over the center line before the ball crosses it
- Off-sides pass -- Passing the ball over the center line to a player who was off-sides
- Out-of-bounds -- Hitting the ball beyond the boundaries of the play area
- Butt-ending, cross-checking, or slashing -- Hitting an opposing player with the end or shaft of your stick or swinging it at him or her, respectively
- Charging or checking -- Slamming yourself into an opposing player or slamming an opposing player into a stationary object
- Elbowing -- Hitting another player with an elbow
- High-sticking -- Carrying your stick above the waist line
- Holding or hooking -- Impeding an opposing player's progress with your hands or your stick, respectively
- Interference -- Physically engaging with an opposing player who is not in possession of the puck
- Tripping -- Knocking an opposing player's feet out with your feet or your stick
Also forbidden? Fighting. If you hit another player, you're out for the rest of the game.
To this end, do yourself a favor and appoint that ref. This is street hockey, not debate team: There are no points for winning an argument. Just grab a stick, slap down some cinder blocks and score a goal.
For more information on street hockey and other team sports, check out the links on the next page.
- NHL Street Playbook (July 18, 2011) http://www.nhl.com/kids/pages/playbook1.html
- Street and Ball Hockey. ISBHF. (July 18, 2011) http://www.isbhf.com/en/about-sport/street-and-ball-hockey/
- Street and Roller Hockey Rules. HockeyNets.com. (July 18, 2011) http://www.hockeynets.com/hockey-goals/streetandrollerhockeyrulesarticle.cfm