If you're Canadian, you should already know how hockey works. Even if you don't play or even like the sport yourself, it was almost impossible not to learn the rules from seeing games on TV and kids playing in the street outside their homes. However, if you're new to Canada, you probably feel decidedly left out during hockey season. Attending and talking about games can help you make friends fast, so here's a quick and dirty summation of the rules of the game.

Hockey (unless it's street hockey played outside or field hockey) is always played on a frozen ice surface known as a rink. Rinks vary in size depending on what league the players are in, but they always have two nets (which look like small soccer nets) - one at either end. In a typical hockey game, two teams play against one another. There are six players on the ice at any given time for each team for a total of twelve players on the ice. Two of these players are called "goalies," three are called "forwards" and are primarily on the attack, and the other two are "defensemen."

The object of the game is to see which team can "score" the most "goals" in a certain amount of time, usually 60 minutes divided into three 20 minute "periods." To score a goal, the players use L-shaped wooden sticks with curved ends to move a small, thick rubber disc, known as a "puck." If a player manipulates or "shoots" the puck into the net, his or her team scores a goal. Unless the game is being played on the street, there are always referees on the ice to make sure both teams abide by the rules.

Though there can be a lot of fighting and roughhousing in hockey (for instance, players are allowed to ram or "check" each other in men's hockey) there are some infractions that can lead to a player getting a "penalty" and having to sit out. These include hitting another player with a stick, raising a stick too high, and being on the wrong side of the ice.

Hockey is a very expensive sport to play, especially for kids, because players need so much gear. All players need ice skates, hockey sticks, helmets, and pads for shins and shoulders while goalies also need extra protection for their faces, chests, and legs in addition to special gloves that help them catch the puck. Go to Sports Net for more on the rules of the game of hockey.

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