Hockey Rink Dimensions (And Mysterious Markings), Explained

hockey rink

Hockey rink dimensions, and everything else on the ice for that matter, can be mysterious to the new hockey player, parent, or casual fan. A glance at the typical rink shows lines in various colors, and circles with dots in them in various positions—some with hash marks and some without. How big is a rink, and what do all these hockey rink lines and circles mean?

How Big Is an NHL Hockey Rink?

An NHL hockey rink is rectangular in shape at just over 200 feet long and just over 85 feet wide. The rink features rounded corners to keep game play fluid, and is surrounded by walls, called “boards,” that rise between 40 and 48 inches from the ice. On top of the boards rests a series of plexiglass panels.  (The NHL required all teams to convert their arenas to plexiglass systems for the 2011-12 season, due to safety concerns with the older, less forgiving tempered glass systems.) The glass allows fans to have a near-perfect view of the action while keeping them safe from flying pucks. It rises an additional five feet over the boards and eight feet at either end of the rink. Another 18 feet of netting on top of the glass at both ends of the hockey rink protects the fans behind the goals from tipped and deflected shots that can sail high over the glass and out of play.

Though ice skating rinks can come in many dimensions, most hockey rinks in North America, including those used in the NHL, are uniform.

What Do the Lines Mean in a Hockey Rink?

Hockey rinks have three wide lines: two blue and one red. The red line divides the rink in half while each blue line is 25 feet on either side of the red line, creating a “neutral zone” of 50 feet between them. Additionally, at either end of the ice is a thin red line that reaches across the entire width of the rink. The puck must completely cross this “goal line” (into the goal) to count as a score. The goal lines are 11 feet from the boards at either end of the rink, and they’re about 64 feet from either blue line.

What Are the Zones in a Hockey Rink?

A hockey rink is divided into three zones. Were you to stand in front of one goal and look at the opposite goal, the space from the boards behind your goal to the first blue line is the “defensive zone.” About 75 feet long, it’s the area your team defends. The 50-foot space between the two blue lines is called the “neutral zone” and the space beyond the second blue line to the far end of the rink is your 75-foot “offensive zone” or “attacking zone”—the area from inside which your offensive players most typically score.

Behind each goal is a trapezoidal area in which the goalie is allowed to handle the puck. Two lines extend diagonally from either side of the goal to the boards behind the net. The width of this area along the boards is 28 feet and its width at the goal line is 18 feet.

What Is the Goalie Crease (And How Big Is It)?

The goalie crease is the area where goalies are allowed to operate without being touched, at least in theory. The crease is a half-circle with a 6-foot radius that in recent years has been extended by one foot from the goal line, increasing the area of goalie protection in front of the net.

What Are the Faceoff Circles and Hockey Dots?

A hockey faceoff can occur at any one of the nine dots on the ice hockey rink. Two dots are found in the defensive zone, two in the offensive zone, and five in the neutral zone. Game play starts at the center dot at the beginning of the game, at the start of each period, and after goals are scored. The four other dots in the neutral zone are used to restart play after offsides violations, or if the puck leaves the playing area from the neutral zone.

The two dots in both the offensive and defensive zones are used to restart play in the event of icing, if the puck leaves the playing area from that zone, or if it is “frozen”—prevented from moving by players’ skates along the boards, or if the goalie covers the puck, resulting in a whistle and a face-off.

Circles 30 feet in diameter surround the center-ice dot and the four dots in the offensive and defensive zones. Only the two players participating in a faceoff are allowed to be inside the circle. The hash marks indicate where the other players must be positioned.

What Are the Penalty Boxes and Hockey Benches (And Where Are They?)

Each team has a bench where players sit when they’re not on the ice. These benches are positioned on either side of the center line and stretch from the center line to either blue line. There is no glass on the boards in front of either bench, to allow players to vault quickly onto the ice. Players leaving the ice typically use a door.

Opposite the team benches are three small boxes with three small benches. The box in the center is where the scorer’s table is positioned. On either side of the scorer’s table is each team’s penalty box. All three of these small boxes are protected by glass. There are many different kinds of  penalties that earn various amounts of time in the penalty box. When a player is in the penalty box, the other team has an extra-player advantage called a “power play”—one of the game’s most exciting aspects.
Of course, all this is purely academic until you watch a game and get familiar with how all these lines and dots and circles give structure to the game. Better yet, head down to the arena and take in a game live—there’s nothing quite like an arena full of screaming fans and a fast-paced hockey game. And make sure you know what to wear to a hockey game—it’s fun to look the part!