A Kraken fan’s visual guide to hockey and the NHL

hockey players on the ice rink

The Kraken and the NHL have finally arrived in Seattle. But before the puck drops on your new favorite sport Oct. 12, let's make sure you're ready.

Do you know where the crease is located? Or what all those circles on the ice are for? At the very least, you're familiar with zambonis.

Whether you're a complete newbie eager to learn the basics or an underground Seattle hockey fan looking for a refresher, we're here to help.

From the lines and zones that divide an NHL rink to players' positions and responsibilities, scroll down for a proper introduction to hockey.

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Center red line

Separates the ice in half and is used to judge “icing” calls.

Icing occurs when a player, before first crossing the center line, clears the puck across the length of the ice without it being playable by an opponent. The result is a whistled stoppage and a faceoff in the offending team’s end without substituting any fresh players to the ice. The icing rule exists to prevent teams from dumping the puck down the ice to ease pressure from opponents.

Blue lines

Run 75 feet from the end boards in each zone

For a play to be onside (allowed), the puck must cross the blue line before the skate blade of the first attacking player.

Red goal lines

Run the width of the ice, 11 feet from the end boards

A goal is awarded when the puck travels completely across the goal line directly in front of either net. “Icing” is automatically called once a shot from behind the center line crosses the goal line without being touched by an opponent.

Neutral zone

The 50-foot space between blue lines on either side of center ice.

Team benches

Each team’s bench is located within the neutral zone and on the same side of the rink. Coaches stand directly behind their players. Before 1978-79, the benches were on opposite sides of the rink, but it gave the home team an advantage of having a shorter distance between the penalty box and the bench.

Referee’s crease

A half-circle area in front of the penalty box where the referee stands while issuing a penalty or speaking to the timekeeper. Any player entering the crease while a referee performs these duties can be issued a misconduct penalty.

Sin bin (penalty box)

Officially known as the “penalty bench," the penalty box is on the opposite side of the rank of the team benches. It is surrounded by 5-foot glass to protect players from errant pucks and sticks, and to separate them from fans. The “box” consists of two penalty benches – one for each team – with a scorer/timekeeper area between them. The benches can hold up to 10 people, including the timekeeper. Players from both teams once sat together in penalty boxes, but incidents led to timekeepers wearing helmets and the league separating the opposing penalty benches with plexiglass.

COMMON PENALTIES FROM THE 2019 SEASON Tripping: When a player uses their stick or any portion of their body to cause an opposing player to fall. Hooking: When a player uses their stick to slow or prevent an opposing player from making a play on the puck or getting into a better position on the ice. Slashing: When a player hits – “slashes” – an opponent with their stick to stop progress or cause injury. Interference: When a player interferes or impedes the progress of an opposing player who is not in possession of the puck. Roughing: When a player strikes an opposing player in a minor altercation that the referee determines is not worthy of a major penalty.


The wooden or fiberglass walls surrounding the ice surface. They are 40 to 48 inches high, with the NHL considering 42 inches the ideal height.


For safety, plexiglass extends 8 feet above the boards at each end of the rink. The remaining glass surrounding the arena is at least 5 feet above the boards to protect spectators from pucks that leave the ice.


Safety netting is mounted above the glass behind both ends of the rink, where pucks often leave the ice at higher rates of speed. Netting became mandatory after a 13-year-old fan died after being struck in the head by a puck.

Goalkeeper's crease area

Unless the puck enters first, this is the territory a goalie can operate in without interference by an opponent. Crease borders start one foot outside each goal post and extend outward by 4.5 feet, where they are then connected by an arc with a 6-foot radius. The interior of the crease is blue and often referred to by TV broadcasters as "the blue paint."

Goalkeeper’s trapezoid

Indicated by red lines behind the net is the goalie’s trapezoid. The lines begin 8 feet outside each goal post and extend diagonally backward toward the end boards until they are 11 feet out. The goalie can only play the puck in the trapezoid and crease areas, while anywhere else is a penalty.


POSITION: Front of the team’s goal.

AREA TO COVER: The team’s goal.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Stop pucks from entering the goal. Can use any means possible and any part of their body. Can catch the puck with their catch glove or deflect with their blocker glove, leg pads or stick.

Defensemen (Left and right)

POSITION: Between the forward line and the goalie.

AREA TO COVER: Defensibly, they lock the left and right corners of the ice. Offensively, they cover the top of the offense zone (blue line to red center line).

RESPONSIBILITIES: Control play in the defensive zone. Block opposing wingers. Intercept shots toward the goal or forward passes from the other team. Move the puck out of the defense zone for quick transition to offense. Keep the puck from leaving the offensive zone.

Forward wingers (Left and right)

POSITION: On either side of the center on the offense line.

AREA TO COVER: From the center of the faceoff circle to the corner in front of the opposing goalie.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Find the best position to get an open shot on goal and score. Pass to the center. Battle for pucks in the corner and along the boards. Carry the puck to the offensive zone when passed by own goalie. Intercept passes when in defense.

Forward centers

POSITION: Middle of the offense line.

AREA TO COVER: From the front of their net to the blue line and to the faceoff dot.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Win the faceoff to take control of the puck. Lead/set up the plays in the offensive zone Get the puck to the wingers. Prevent the opposing center from leading play.

The basics

The faceoff
The faceoff is used to start the game after a stoppage, such as when a goal is scored, the start of a period, following a penalty whistle or when a player is injured.
faceoff circle with centers and referee
The sweater (hockey jersey)
The home team wears a dark sweater that features its main color. The visiting team wears a white sweater. A home team can choose an alternate third jersey, which is a different color. Because this is its first year, the Kraken will not have an alternate jersey.
home and away Kraken sweaters
The twig (hockey stick)

Hockey sticks are made from a variety of materials

Made of laminated birch, ash or aspen. The paddle and blade are wrapped in thin layers of fiberglass.

Have wood shafts with fiberglass lamination. The paddle and blade are molded urethane injected with foam and covered with fiberglass or composite laminate.

Made from a variety of materials, including fiberglass, graphite and carbon fiber. Often have foam cores and are commonly wrapped in high-grade synthetic materials like nylon or carbon fiber.

types of hockey sticks
The biscuit (puck)

Standardized in 1940 by Art Ross, regulation NHL pucks are black, flat, solid disks made of a granular rubber mixed with a special bonding material. The rubber mixture is pressed into a two-part molding pallet of 200 mold cavities. The molding pallet is then cold compressed. The pucks are released from the molding pallet and fed into one of four silk screen machines where the team's or league’s logo is printed on each puck. The finished pucks are then packed for shipping with wax paper separating the pucks to protect the logos.

During the game, pucks are kept cold at 14°F in an ice-packed cooler until needed because freezing reduces the amount of bounce.

A puck can reach a speed of 100 miles per hour during a game.

diagram of a hockey puck
The Zamboni machine (keeping the ice smooth)

Ice resurfacers, known mainly by their brand name, Zamboni, are machines that drive onto the ice to transform the pitted, carved surface back into a smooth, slick flat-ice sheet. They were created in Southern California by Frank Zamboni in 1949.

The first NHL team to buy and use a Zamboni ice resurfacer — the Model E21 — was the Boston Bruins in 1955. Before then, ice rinks had to be resurfaced by hand, and it took three to four workers over an hour to smooth the ice. A single Zamboni ice resurfacer can do it in 7 minutes.

The “conditioner” is the workhorse of the Zamboni machine. It has a large blade (A) 77 inches long, that removes the chipped and scuffed top layer of the ice.
An auger system (B) lifts the shaved iced to the snow tank (C).
Behind the blade sits the washer (D), which cleans the ice by spraying it with water and vacuuming up the dirty water, like a rug cleaner. Dirt and debris is filtered out, so that the water can be reused for more washing. A large, flat towel (E) coated with hot water follows behind the washer. It helps even out any bumps in the ice by melting the top layer slightly before it refreezes.

diagram of a zamboni machine

The ice is resurfaced in an overlapping series of ovals. Rinks use two Zambonis machines to shorten the resurfacing time.

diagram of the path a zamboni machine follows on the ice

What to know about the NHL


Graphic artist: Mark Nowlin
Reporter: Geoff Baker
Reporter: Marisa Ingemi
Sources: NHL, sportsnet.ca, goalie.purehockey.com, madehow.com, iceskatingpassion.com, smithsonianmag.com, zamboni.com
Developer and graphics editor: Emily M. Eng
Project editor: Paul Barrett
Engagement editor: Chris Cole

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