What’s That Call? About the Off-Sides Call
A friend once told me she couldn’t understand off-sides in any sport—because, she asked, “Isn’t that the whole point of the game? Passing ahead and scoring?” My seven-year-old, who is facing the enforcement of off-sides next year, doesn’t get it either. My husband told him something like, “You can’t cross the blue line ahead of the puck in the attack zone.” Well, when you’ve been playing half-ice and cross-ice, you don’t even have a blue line. And when you’re seven you don’t know what the attack zone is.
Here’s what you need to know about off-sides: A player skating the puck up the ice to score can’t pass to a teammate who is already on the other side of the blue line (for example, parked right in front of the net). In fact, the player can’t even skate the puck past the blue line if a teammate is on the other side of it. When this happens, the linesman (the official without the orange arm bands) raises a hand straight above the head and blows the whistle. The game stops and there’s a face-off in the nearest neutral zone spot. (The neutral zone is basically the middle area, the space between the two blue lines.)
What else is there to know? You can read the two-page description of what constitutes off-sides (skate positioning rather than stick, crossing two lines, etc.) in the Official Rules of Ice Hockey booklet by clicking here (pdf).
Video: Here is a great video that demonstrates the off-sides call in action.
So, in answer to my friend’s question—yes, passing ahead is key to scoring. The problem comes when you pass too far ahead. Then passing ahead becomes more like cheating.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Kordes Anton for this explanation of the off-sides call.
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