When entering the world of hockey, it's essential to know there are two different types: ice hockey and field hockey. Depending on where you live, one may be more popular than the other. But while these two sports share some similarities, a few distinct differences make them unique.
If you're eager to hit the rink or the field, let's first look at each sport to see which is best for you.
The Differences Between Ice Hockey and Field Hockey
Despite their variations, both sports have the same objective. Players must manoeuvre a ball or hockey puck into the other team's goal. However, that's where their similarities end. From there, each sport has its own unique rules, equipment, and playing style.
- Playing Surface
The most apparent difference between these two sports is the playing surface. Ice hockey is typically played on an indoor rink, while field hockey is played on an artificial-turf field. While you can play field hockey on regular grass, hockey often requires a slick and flat surface to easily move the ball.
A quick-moving playing field is easily obtained with ice hockey. To play field hockey at a quick pace, water-based astroturf is often required. This artificial turf style differs from the kind you would play football on. Water-based astroturf has better traction for the players and the ball, providing a faster playing surface.
Both sports must have an item that is flicked into the goal, with ice hockey using a puck and field hockey using a ball. However, it's not just the ball and puck that are different in these activities.
Ice and field hockey both require a hockey stick, but the shape and design differ. Field hockey sticks are curved at the end to help players direct and pass the ball to one another. On the other hand, ice hockey sticks are straight with a wide blade that helps lift the puck off the ice surface.
Another significant difference between the two sports is protective equipment. Ice hockey requires more protective gear due to the fast-paced and physical nature of the game. Players must wear helmets, chest and shoulder pads, shin guards, hockey gloves, and a jockstrap with a protective cup.
In contrast, field hockey players don't need a full set of protective equipment; a mouthguard and shin guards are usually enough.
Different playing fields call for specific footwear. The icy surface of an ice hockey rink requires thick-soled skates designed to glide on the slick surface. Field hockey players, however, wear boots with small studs or cleats to help them grip the turf better.
- Game Play
You may think ice hockey and field hockey follow the same rules, but they don't! Field hockey is a non-contact sport, meaning the players are not allowed to use physical contact with other players. Whereas ice hockey is considered a full-contact sport and requires physical contact between bodies to possess the puck. This is just one of the many differences in gameplay between the two sports!
The game length also varies between ice hockey and field hockey. Ice hockey is usually played in three 20-minute periods - totaling 60 minutes. Field hockey is also 60 minutes long but often divided into four 15-minute quarters.
In ice hockey, teams have 6 players on the ice simultaneously. This includes 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and 1 goaltender. Field hockey teams have up to 11 players on the field at once. Typically, this is made up of 3 forwards, 3 defenders and 4 midfielders - but this can vary depending on the game strategy.
In field hockey, the playing field is divided into sections. If you want to score a goal, the ball must be hit from the 'D' area (the area closest to the goal) and passed into the goal. In ice hockey, you can score a goal from anywhere on the ice - as long the puck crosses the goal line.
Fouls, Penalties and Offsides
The two sports have varying rules and regulations for fouls and offsides. As mentioned before, field hockey is a non-contact sport. This means physical contact between players, or other infractions of the rules, can end in either a penalty corner, free hit or penalty stroke.
In ice hockey, contact that goes beyond what is considered 'normal' play can result in a minor penalty or a major penalty. Major penalties are for serious rule breaks (such as putting another player in danger) and can last for up to 5 minutes. In comparison, a minor penalty can last for up to 2 minutes unless the opposing team scores in that time.
- Physical Demand
Both sports require a high fitness level and physical skill. However, due to the fast-paced nature of ice hockey, it requires more agility and strength than field hockey does. This is why ice hockey players need to wear extra protective equipment - to protect themselves from flying pucks and hard checks!
This doesn't mean that field hockey is easy - it's just a different type of physical demand. Field hockey requires a lot of endurance as you are constantly running. You must also have good hand-eye coordination and ball control, as there is more focus on skill with field hockey.
That said, field hockey is often seen as the better choice for beginners. This is because you can learn the basics of the game and develop your hockey skills without worrying about the physical contact of ice hockey!
While both sports offer something unique, they require different skills and have varying rules. Ice hockey is a full-contact sport with fast-paced gameplay, while field hockey is a sport that focuses on agility and endurance.
If you're looking for a new sport to start playing, field hockey is a great place to start! With its non-contact nature and focus on skill, it can be the perfect introduction to hockey for beginners. To get started on your field hockey journey, click through to the hockey equipment section on our website - here, you will find everything you need to get started!