Inline Hockey vs Ice Hockey



By: George Pickard, Inline Hockey Committee President

Spectators who are long time fans of hockey will possibly be more familiar with the playing rules of ice hockey than with that of FIRS inline roller hockey.  Both games use a puck of slightly different design.  Here is a brief comparison of the similarities and the differences:

Ice hockey's rink size is the same as the ideal for inline hockey rinks, but in practical fact, many matches of inline hockey games are played throughout the world on smaller surfaces since that ideal arena is not always available for inline games. Inline rinks often use a plastic inter-locking tile floor, designed for multipurpose sport activities including roller skating, sometimes laid over the concrete of an ice hockey rink. FIRS Continental and World Championships strive for 60 X 30 meter floor size.

Ice Hockey surfaces are divided into three zones: defensive, neutral and offensive.  This creates restrictions on passing the puck and the entry of an offensive player into a defensive zone ahead of the puck.  Play is then halted, a face-off occurs and the game once again resumes.  The dynamic of the ice game is far different than that of the free zone inline game. Offensive strategy for FIRS inline hockey can be compared to basketball’s open court tactics.

The attention of the referee and two linesmen in ice hockey is perhaps 85% dedicated to off-side and icing stoppages and to restarts of play.  This is eliminated in inline hockey, which uses two referees and no linesmen.  FIRS members believe this makes for a faster paced game, more scoring opportunities and improved spectator interest.

Ice hockey team size limits a maximum of six players on the surface at a time, including the goalkeeper, while FIRS inline hockey restricts the maximum to five.  Team substitution is similar for both.

Board checking is permitted for ice hockey players, which commonly leads to retaliatory fighting and other game violence. Checking is not permitted under FIRS regulations and fighting is prohibited and punished severely.

Icing of the puck is prohibited on ice unless the perpetrating team has fewer players on the surface because of penalties.  No such passing restriction exists for FIRS inline hockey, creating a faster breaking offense as well as less game stoppage.

Inline hockey games, lacking the cooling aspect of an ice surface, are played in two – 20 minute halves for world championship games, ice hockey uses three – 20 minute periods.  Inline hockey player shifts are usually 1 to 1-1/2 minutes in length.

In FIRS inline hockey world championship play, the goal cage size is about 6 inches smaller than ice cages in all dimensions.  However, many national federations use the more readily available standard ice hockey goal cages for their domestic games.  

Acknowledging the obvious differences in skates and rink surfaces, equipment usage is basically the same and playing rules quite similar, except as noted.