What Is the Blue Line in Hockey? And the Purpose Behind it


The puck approaches the blue line.

When it comes to hockey, the rules and regulations on the ice are minimal, giving the sport its infamous primal nature. However, one regulator in the game always keeps players in check – the honorable blue line.

So, what is the blue line in Hockey?

The blue line represents the division of the three different zones in a hockey rink: the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones. The blue lines are a pair of markings put into place 25 feet from each side of the centerline to act as a maker for each zone.

While this may seem like a simple marking on the ice, the blue line plays a big part in the game and it can be a deciding factor on who wins the game depending on how well teams use the blue line to their advantage. Let’s explore how the blue lines play a role in the great game of hockey.

What Is the Blue Line in Hockey?

Taken at face value, the blue line is the line that divides the different zones of a hockey rink, but this is not their only function. The lines are also used by referees or specifically linesmen, to call offsides penalties when a player crosses over the blue line into another zone before the puck does. These penalties lead to a face-off between the teams.

Alternatively, this line can act as a point of contention for both defending and attacking players. Some players drift around the blue line to add an extra element of defense or to organize the team for an effective attack without sacrificing too much distance from player-to-player or player-to-goal.

What Is the Purpose of the Blue Line?

The purpose of the blue line is to divide up the rink into three manageable zones: The offensive zone, the neutral zone, and the defensive zone. Players with the puck cannot move into the offensive zone before the puck crosses the blue line.

Furthermore, the blue line helps linesmen and referees call offsides. If a player enters the attacking zone before the puck does, the play is whistled dead, and a face-off ensues at the closest face-off circle.

It should be noted that a player cannot enter the offensive zone, leave it, and come back into it while handling the puck. This will result in a play being called dead and another face-off. These penalties help the game from becoming a schoolyard game of “500” where players could all crowd at the goal and have a teammate hail-Mary the puck in an attempt to score.

If a player that is not controlling the puck enters the offensive zone before the puck, the whole team has to return to the neutral zone before the puck can enter the zone again. This is known as delayed offsides and will be called off if the whole team returns to the neutral zone.

What Is a Blue Line Player in Hockey?

A hockey player sets up for a slapshot near the blue line.

Blueline players are typically defensemen that hover around the blue line to hinder a breakaway or a cleared puck. These players, known as blueliners, are the first line of defense against a turnover by their team. They are an essential asset to a team’s strategy, primarily if they are known to play a defensive game.

In the game of hockey, the tide can turn from defensive to offensive very quickly, so it is crucial to have defensemen making sure their team’s defensive zone is well protected and can keep the puck in their team’s offensive zone. Essentially a blueline player helps keep the pressure on their opponents while relieving stress from their team.

Notable Blueliners include:

  • Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
  • Owen Power, Top Draft Prospect 2021
  • Filip Hronek, Detroit Red Wings
  • John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Crossing the Blue Line Before the Puck

If an attacking player’s skates cross the blue line before the puck does, the play will result in an offsides penalty and in a face-off in the neutral zone at the closest face-off circle. Players are free to skate in-and-out of the offensive zone if they do not have the puck or aren’t receiving a pass.

Along with regular offsides, we have to take into account delayed offsides. This is when attacking players who are not in control of the puck go past the blue line before the puck passes the blue line.

If the puck is passed and is not touched, offensive players can “tag up,” which means they all exit the offensive zone into the neutral zone and reenter to reengage the puck. If all players exit and renter successfully, the delayed offsides is called off.

These penalties were put into place in 1929 because players were creating scoring opportunities by huddling their scorers by the goal and then making full ice passes to them. The offsides rule was put into place to give goaltenders a fighting chance against uncontested shots.

Blue Line Dimensions

The blue line is one-foot-wide and 85 feet long, stretching the width of the hockey rink. They are distanced 75 feet from the back of each of their respective boards. The distance between the two lines or the neutral zone is 50 feet, while they sit 60 feet from the closest goal.

What Is the Red Line in Hockey?

A bubble hockey player near the red line.

Three different red lines exist in hockey, and they all serve a purpose. The most distinguished of the three is the centerline that divides the rink into two halves. This line’s most recognizable achievement is being the setting for the game’s initial face-off, but it is also used to help referees decide whether an icing infraction has occurred.

Icing is when a player passes/shoots the puck from their defensive zone, or their half of the neutral zone, and it crosses both the center red line and the goal line of the opposing team without being touched. The rule was put into play to deter the offensive model of dumping the puck to the opposite end and chasing after it.

A caveat to the icing rule is that if a team does shoot over the center line and the opposing team’s goal line, and the puck enters the goal, the icing call will be null, and the play will result in a goal. The other two red lines on the rink are known as goal lines, these function as an indicator of whether a goal was scored or if an icing penalty has materialized.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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