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Video of a face-off in a Swiss hockey game

A face-off is the method used to begin and restart play after goals in some sports using sticks, primarily ice hockey, bandy and lacrosse. The two teams line up in opposition to each other, and the opposing players attempt to gain control of the puck or ball after it is dropped or otherwise placed between their sticks by an official.

Ice hockey team sport played on ice using sticks, skates, and a puck

Ice hockey is a contact team sport played on ice, usually in a rink, in which two teams of skaters use their sticks to shoot a vulcanized rubber puck into their opponent's net to score points. The sport is known to be fast-paced and physical, with teams usually consisting of six players each: one goaltender, and five players who skate up and down the ice trying to take the puck and score a goal against the opposing team.

Bandy ballgame on ice played using skates and sticks

Bandy is a team winter sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a ball into the opposing team's goal.

Lacrosse Team sport

Lacrosse is a team sport played with a lacrosse stick and a lacrosse ball. Players use the head of the lacrosse stick to carry, pass, catch, and shoot the ball into the goal.


Ice hockey

Hockey face-offs are generally handled by centres, although some wingers handle face-offs and, very rarely, defensemen. [1] One of the referees drops the puck at centre ice to start each period and following the scoring of a goal. The linesmen are responsible for all other face-offs.

Centre (ice hockey) Ice hockey position

The centre in ice hockey is a forward position of a player whose primary zone of play is the middle of the ice, away from the sideboards. Centers have more flexibility in their positioning and are expected to cover more ice surface than any other player. Centers are ideally stronger, faster skaters who can back-check quickly from deep in the opposing zone. Generally, centers are expected to be gifted passers more than goal scorers, although there are exceptions. They are also expected to have exceptional "ice vision", intelligence, and creativity. They also generally are the most defensively oriented forwards on the ice. Centers usually play as part of a line of players that are substituted frequently to keep fresh and keep the game moving.

One player from each team stands at the face-off spot (see below) to await the drop of the puck. All teammates must be lateral to or behind the player taking the face-off. [2] Generally, the goal of the player taking the face-off is to draw the puck backward, toward teammates; however, they will, occasionally attempt to shoot the puck forward, past the other team, to kill time when shorthanded. However, where the face-off occurs at one of the five face-off spots that have circles marked around them, only the two opposing players responsible for taking the face-off may be in the circle. A common formation, especially at centre ice, is for a skater to take the face-off, with the wings lateral to the centre on either side, and the skater, usually a defenseman, behind the player handling the face-off, one toward each side. This is not mandatory, however, and other formations are seen—especially where the face-off is in one of the four corner face-off spots.

A face-off at centre ice in a youth hockey game Face-off in youth hockey tournament at Ice Palace, West Edmonton Mall.jpg
A face-off at centre ice in a youth hockey game

Face-offs are typically conducted at designated places marked on the ice called face-off spots or dots. There are nine such spots: two in each attacking zone, two on each end of the neutral zone, and one in the centre of the rink. Face-offs did not always take place at the marked face-off spots. If a puck left the playing surface, for example, the face-off would take place wherever the puck was last played. On June 20, 2007, the NHL Board of Governors approved a change to NHL Rule 76.2, which governs face-off locations. The rule now requires that all face-offs take place at one of the nine face-off spots on the ice, regardless of what caused the stoppage of play. Rule 76.2 also dictates that, with some exceptions, a face-off following a penalty must occur at one of the two face-off dots of the offending team's end. [1]

An official may remove the player taking the face-off if the player or any players from the same team attempt to gain an unfair advantage during the face-off (called a face-off violation). When a player is removed, one of the teammates not originally taking the face-off is required to take the face-off. Common face-off violations include: moving the stick before the puck is dropped, not placing the stick properly when requested to do so, not placing the body square to the face-off spot, or encroachment into the face-off circle by a teammate. In the NHL, the player from the visiting team is required to place his stick on the ice for the face-off first when it takes place at the centre-line dot. For all other face-offs, the player from the defending team must place his stick first. Before the league's 2015–16 season, the visiting player was required to place his stick first on all face-offs. [3]

National Hockey League North American professional ice hockey league

The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America, currently comprising 31 teams: 24 in the United States and 7 in Canada. The NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season.

The 2015–16 NHL season was the 99th season of operation of the National Hockey League (NHL). Thirty teams competed in 82-game regular season schedules from October 7, 2015 to April 10, 2016.

Faceoff Location
No penaltyDelayed penalty
Start of periodcentre spot
Icing defending spot of attacking teamneutral spot of attacking team
Intentional Offsidedefending spot of defending team
Offside neutral spot of defending team (usually)
Offside called in error
Icing called in errorcentre spot (except USA Hockey)
defending spot of defending team (USA Hockey)


In the first organized ice hockey rules (see Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, AHAC), both centres faced the centre line of the ice rink, like the wingers do today. At that time, another forward position existed, the rover, who faced forward like centres did today, but a few feet away.

The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC) was an amateur men's ice hockey league founded on 8 December 1886, in existence until 1898. It was the second ice hockey league organized in Canada, after one in Kingston, Ontario started in 1883. It was organized to provide a longer season to determine the Canadian champion. Prior to its founding the Canadian championship was determined in a tournament in Montreal. It is the first championship ice hockey league.

Face-offs were first called "faces" of the puck, or a "puck-off".[ citation needed ]


In bandy, the game is restarted with a face-off when the game has been temporarily interrupted. The face-off is executed on the place where the ball was situated when the game was interrupted. If the ball was inside the penalty area when the game was interrupted, the face-off is moved to the nearest free-stroke point on the penalty line.

In a face-off one player of each team place themselves opposite each other and with their backs turned to their own end-lines. The sticks are held parallel to each other and on each side of the ball. The ball must not be touched until the referee has blown his whistle. At face-off the ball may be played in any direction.

In bandy, face-offs are regulated in section 4.6 of the Bandy Playing Rules set up by the Federation of International Bandy (FIB). [4]


Field lacrosse

Two lacrosse players set for a face-off as the referee places the ball on the ground between the heads of their sticks Referee placing ball between middies for a lacrosse faceoff.jpg
Two lacrosse players set for a face-off as the referee places the ball on the ground between the heads of their sticks

Face-offs are used in men's field lacrosse to start every quarter and overtime periods, unless a team playing man-up controls the ball at the end of the previous quarter. [5]

In the field lacrosse face-off, two players face each other at the X in the middle of the field, in a crouching position with the ball placed on the ground on the center line between the heads of their sticks, set four inches (10 cm) apart, parallel to the midline but the ends pointing in opposite directions. Two other players from each team must wait behind wing lines, [5] 20 yards from the faceoff spot on opposite sides of the field until the whistle. [6]

Any player except the goalkeeper, due to the much larger head on his stick, can face off; in practice face-offs are usually taken by midfielders. When a team is down a player due to a penalty, there will only be one other midfielder on the wing, or none if two or more players are serving time. When a third player, the maximum allowed by the rules before penalties are stacked, is serving time, the team thus penalized is allowed to have one of its defensemen come out and play on the wing during a faceoff. [5]

Players facing off must rest their stick in their gloved hands on the ground and position themselves entirely to the left of their sticks' heads. They may kneel or keep both feet on the ground. Between the time they go down into position and the referee's whistle, the players facing off must remain still. A premature movement by any player will be called as a technical foul, and the other team will be awarded the ball. To ensure that they remain still, referees are instructed to time their whistle differently on every face-off. [5]

At the whistle, each face-off player makes a move to clamp the ball under their stick head, or tries to direct the ball to their teammates on the wing. Only those six players can attempt to pick up the ball at first. The three attackmen and defensemen from either team must remain in their respective zones behind the restraining lines [5] 20 yards from the center line. [6] Once possession is established, or the loose ball crosses either restraining line, the faceoff is considered to have ended and all players are allowed to leave their zones. [5]

If the loose ball goes out of bounds on a face-off before either team can pick it up, it is awarded to the team that last touched it and all other players are released when play is restarted. [5]

The players facing off may not step on or hold each other's sticks to prevent the other from getting the ball. Nor may they trap the ball beneath their sticks without attempting a "tennis pickup" to prevent anyone from establishing possession, an action normally penalized as withholding the ball from play, another technical foul. If they pick the ball up on the back of their stick but do not immediately flip it into the pocket, it is also considered withholding. In all these cases the face-off will be ended with the ball awarded to the opposing team at the spot of the infraction. Players facing off who deliberately handle or touch the ball in an attempt to gain possession, or use their open hand to hold the opposing face-off player's stick, receive a three-minute unreleasable penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in addition to possession being awarded to the other team. [5]

Under NCAA rules in college lacrosse, if a team violates rules specific to face-offs, either by false starts before them by any player at midfield or illegal actions by the players facing off, more than twice in a half, each additional violation results in a 30-second penalty assessed against the team, to be served by the designated "in-home" player. [5]

A player who does faceoffs but not much else for the team is called a “FOGO”, which stands for “face off, get off”.

Women's lacrosse

Players preparing for a draw in a college women's lacrosse game Rutgers vs. Michigan women's lacrosse 2015 05.jpg
Players preparing for a draw in a college women's lacrosse game

In women's lacrosse, a procedure similar to a face-off is also used, although it is called a draw. The two players taking the draw stand at the center of the field, and hold their sticks together at waist level while the referee places the ball between the heads, which face each other. Four other players from each team stand on the outside of a 30-foot (9.1 m) center circle. At the whistle, the two center players both lift their sticks, tossing the ball in the air, while the players on the outside attempt to gain possession when it comes down. [7]

Field hockey

Two female field hockey players prepare to start or resume the match with a bully-off in the centre of the pitch. Field hockey bully-off.png
Two female field hockey players prepare to start or resume the match with a bully-off in the centre of the pitch.

A similar technique, known as a bully-off, is used in field hockey. The two opposing players alternately touch their sticks on the ground and against each other before attempting to strike the ball. Its use as the method of starting play was discontinued in 1981. [8]

Similar rules in other sports

A face-off is also similar to a jump ball in basketball, [9] a ball-up in Australian rules football, and a dropped-ball (if contested) in association football. [10] All of these also involve two opposing players attempting to gain control of the ball after it is released by an official.

An event similar to a face-off has been attempted in at least two leagues of American football: the XFL, a short-lived professional football league that played its lone season in 2001, instituted an "opening scramble," replacing the coin toss, in which one player from each team attempted to recover a loose football after a twenty-yard dash. The team whose player recovered the ball got first choice of kicking, receiving, or defending one side of the field. Because of an extremely high rate of injury in these events (in the league's first game, one XFL player was lost for the season after separating his shoulder in a scramble), the event has not gained mainstream popularity in most other football leagues. X-League Indoor Football nonetheless adopted a modified version opening scramble (using the name "X-Dash") when it began play in 2014, but tweaked to avoid the injuries so that each player chased after their own ball. [11]

The coin toss remains the method of choice for determining possession at the beginning of an American football game. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

Field hockey Team sport version of hockey played on grass or turf with sticks and a round ball

Field hockey is a team game of the hockey family. The game can be played on grass, water turf, artificial turf or synthetic field as well as an indoor board surface. Each team plays with eleven players, including the goalie. Players use sticks made out of wood, carbon fibre, fibre glass or a combination of carbon fibre and fibre glass in different quantities to hit a round, hard, plastic ball. The length of the stick is based on the player's individual height. Only one face of the stick is allowed to be used. Goalies often have a different kind of stick, however they can also use an ordinary field hockey stick. The specific goal-keeping sticks have another curve at the end of the stick, this is to give them more surface area to save the ball. The uniform consists of shin guards, shoes, shorts, a mouth guard and a jersey. Today, the game is played globally, mainly in parts of Western Europe, South Asia, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and parts of the United States. Known simply as "hockey" in many territories, the term "field hockey" is used primarily in Canada and the United States where ice hockey is more popular. In Sweden, the term "landhockey" is used and to some degree also in Norway where it is governed by Norway's Bandy Association.

Hockey is a sport in which two teams play against each other by trying to manoeuvre a ball or a puck into the opponent's goal using a hockey stick. There are many types of hockey such as bandy, field hockey, ice hockey and rink hockey.

Goalkeeper Sports position played in defense of ones own goal

In many team sports which involve scoring goals, the goalkeeper is a designated player charged with directly preventing the opposing team from scoring by blocking or intercepting opposing shots on goal.

Goal (sport) method of scoring in many sports

In sports, a goal is a physical structure or area where an attacking team must send the ball or puck in order to score points. In several sports, a goal is the sole method of scoring, and thus the final score is expressed in the total number of goals scored by each team. In other sports, a goal may be one of several scoring methods, and thus may be worth a different set number of points than the others.

Icing (ice hockey) Ice hockey rule

Icing is an infraction in the sport of ice hockey. It occurs when a player shoots the puck from behind the centre red line, across the opposing team's goal line, and the puck remains untouched.

Penalty (ice hockey) Punishment for breaking the rules in ice hockey

A penalty in ice hockey is a punishment for an infringement of the rules. Most penalties are enforced by sending the offending player to a penalty box for a set number of minutes. During the penalty the player may not participate in play. Penalties are called and enforced by the referee, or in some cases, the linesman. The offending team may not replace the player on the ice, leaving them short-handed as opposed to full strength. When the opposing team is said to be on a power play, they will have one more player on the ice than the short-handed team. The short-handed team is said to be "on the penalty kill" until the penalty expires and the penalized player returns to play. While standards vary somewhat between leagues, most leagues recognize several common varieties of penalties, as well as common infractions.

Ice hockey rink rink for the purpose of playing ice hockey

An ice hockey rink is an ice rink that is specifically designed for ice hockey, a team competing sport. Alternatively it is used for other sports such as broomball, ringette and rink bandy. It is a rectangle with rounded edges and surrounded by a wall approximately 1 metre (39 in) high called the boards.

Street hockey

Street hockey is a variation of the sport of ice hockey where the game is played outdoors on foot, or with inline or roller skates using a ball or puck. Both ball and puck are typically designed to be played on non-ice surfaces. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team by shooting the ball or puck into the opposing team's net. Street hockey in pickup form is generally played under the following guidelines since there are no "official rules" for local pickup hockey:

Floor hockey is a family of indoor hockey games.

In ice hockey, a play is offside if a player on the attacking team does not control the puck and is in the offensive zone when a different attacking player causes the puck to completely cross the blue line into the offensive zone, until either the puck or all attacking players leave the offensive zone. Simply put, attacking players must not enter the attacking zone before the puck. If a player on the attacking team is in the offensive zone before the puck, they must retreat to the neutral zone.

Roller in-line hockey team sport

Roller in-line hockey, or inline hockey is a variant of hockey played on a hard, smooth surface, with players using inline skates to move and hockey sticks to shoot a hard, plastic puck into their opponent's goal to score points. There are five players including the goalkeeper from each team on the rink at a time, while teams normally consist of 16 players.

National Hockey League rules

The National Hockey League rules are the rules governing the play of the National Hockey League (NHL), a professional ice hockey organization. Infractions of the rules, such as offside and icing, lead to a stoppage of play and subsequent to the offending teams. The league also determines the specifications for playing equipment used in its games.

This is a list of common terms used in ice hockey along with the definition of these terms.

Penalty shot

A penalty shot or penalty kick is a play used in several sports whereby a goal is attempted during untimed play. Depending on the sport, when a player commits certain types of penalties, the opposition is awarded a penalty shot or kick attempt. The rules on how a player attempts a penalty shot or kick also varies between sports.

Rossall Hockey or RossHockey is a unique form of hockey played only at Rossall School, in Fleetwood, on the Fylde coast, Lancashire, England. The game is unique to Rossall School and is played on the beach next to the school during the Lent term only, with the pitch being marked by dragging the hockey sticks in the sand before each match. It is a brutal beach game born of rugby but played with hockey-like sticks by girls as well as boys at the school. It dates back to the 19th century when pitches were too wet for rugby. It is one of the few school coded sports to have remained in use despite the dominance of other national codes in modern sport. The only other examples of school coded sport in the United Kingdom that remain are those of the various Fives codes; of which Rossall has its own, as well as Harrow football, Winchester College football, the Eton wall game and the Eton field game.

The Hockey Canada Officiating Program(sometimes abbreviated HCOP or less commonly CHOP) is the governing body for on-ice officials for all ice hockey games played under the jurisdiction of Hockey Canada. The Hockey Canada Rulebook provides in-depth explanation and examples of all rules governing hockey in Canada.


  1. 1 2 "Hockey Fave-Off Rules". rookieroad.com. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  2. "Get to know: Faceoffs". Hockey Wilderness. SBNation. November 15, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  3. "Face-Off Procedures". USA Hockey. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  4. "Bandy Playing Rules" (PDF). Federation of International Bandy. 1 September 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "NCAA Men's Lacrosse 2015 and 2016 Rules and Interpretations" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. October 2014. pp. 26–31. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  6. 1 2 "NCAA Men's Lacrosse 2015 and 2016 Rules and Interpretations" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. October 2014. pp. 10–11. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  7. Bowker, Paul (2014). Girls' Lacrosse. ABDO. pp. 41–43. ISBN   9781617839887 . Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  8. "New hockey laws ended India's rule", The Times of India, February 27, 2010
  9. "Basketball". BBC.
  10. "Introduction to Aussie Rules Football". USAFL.
  11. Charles Curtis. "9 crazy things you forgot about the original XFL". FTW. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  12. "American Football Rules". rulesofsport.com.