At any one time, there are 6 players from each team on the ice. From the goal end of the rink, they are known as Goal Tender (G), Left Defence (LD), Right Defence (RD), Left Wing (LW), Centre (C) & Right Wing (RW). It is the goal tender’s primary job to keep the opposition from scoring. To help them stop the puck and to prevent injury, they are given additional specialised equipment to wear. The two defensive players in front of the goal tender have the job of stopping the opposition forwards from reaching the goal tender. The three forwards (Left Wing, Centre & Right Wing)  work together to attempt to score goals. At times, players roles change depending on the state of play and their skill level.


In default situations, there must be 5 skaters & one goal tender on the ice for each team. This is called “playing 5 on 5.” The five players not including the goal tender on the ice are collectively known as a line. Even though the goal tender also skates, the 5 other players on the team are known as skaters for ease of reference. There are different rules & equipment for goal tenders & skaters. 


Ideally, there are 3 lines off the ice awaiting their turn (known as a shift) on the ice.  Depending on fitness levels, competition level and tactics, each line may have a shift lasting from 45 to 90 seconds before they are changed. Each player will usually change places with a person on a different line playing in the same position. It is a tactical decision of the coaching staff to decide when players come on or off the ice.



Graphic – Hockey on-ice positions, locations of benches and penalty boxes.

Note – At some Sydney rinks (Canterbury & Liverpool), the benches & penalty boxes are located on the same side. The penalty boxes are located between the two benches at these locations.



Depending on the situation, a player might find themselves on a new line with new line mates (team mates on the same line) during the match. Line changes can be made during play or during a stoppage. Lines are usually ranked from 1 (best) to 4 (worst). It is up to each team’s coach to decide on what line is on the ice at any time. If Team A has their first line on the ice, Team B will usually ensure their first line is on the ice. If Team A’s fourth line is on the ice, it might advantage Team B to put their first line on the ice.


In Australia, it can be difficult to have a team where there are 4 lines of skaters (20 players) available to play. Often, there will be 3 lines of skaters used (15 players) which extends the amount of ice time for each skater. In most competitions, there is usually a lower limit for the number of players who can play the game before the game is forfeited. As long as the minimum and maximum number of players is met, there is no obligation for the total players on either team to match as long as the correct number of players are on the ice at any one time. 


Usually, the goal tender is on the ice for the entire game and does not take part in line changes. In most competitions, there are two goal tenders. Both goal tenders are wearing their full equipment and ready to play at a moment’s notice. A goal tender may be changed due to tactics, poor form or injury. The goal tender starting the match is known as the starting goalie (or starter) and the other goal tender is known as the backup goalie (or backup). In some teams there is a clear difference in the skill level of the goalies while in other teams, their standards are similar.


Each team has a head coach. Depending on the level played, there may be assistant coaches. Each team has a Captain (look for the letter C on the front of the Captain’s jersey) and up to 2 Alternate Captains (look for the letter A on the front of the Alternate’s jersey). Only these skaters can talk to the referee although this often does not occur in reality. A goal tender can not be a Captain or Alternate Captain.



Page last updated 02 May 2017