Is Hockey an Indoor Game? Plus 12 Answers Most Beginners Don’t Know

The game of hockey was invented on frozen ponds with sticks and balls.

But did it stay outside?

Do you play it indoors—or outdoors?

If you’re looking to get into hockey but you’re wondering whether or not you play it inside a building or in the great outdoors, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll show you whether hockey is an indoor game, what the difference is between indoor and outdoor hockey, and the pros and cons of each.

Let’s begin.

Here’s Whether Hockey Is an Indoor Game:

Yes, hockey is an indoor game. Ice hockey is typically played inside an arena on an ice rink. However, ice hockey can also be played outdoors during the winter or in colder areas when temperature remains below freezing for long periods of time.

What Is the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Hockey?

The main difference between indoor and outdoor ice hockey comes down to the elements.

Outdoor Hockey

In outdoor hockey, the players are completely at the mercy of nature.

Temperatures can fluctuate between being extremely cold where players could get frostbite. Or, temperatures may get too warm where the ice starts to melt, causing poor ice quality and potentially even injury.

Outside, you also deal with the sun. Even if it’s cold enough to play hockey, it could be too sunny. In most cases, sunny days bring out the best in us. However, if the sun is glaring down on you, it can make it difficult to see the puck.

Since ice is a white or off-white color, it can be extremely reflective of the sun, causing difficulties with vision.

Wind is another factor. If it’s not windy, no one notices and the game continues. However, if the wind picks up outside, it could mean one of two things:

1. The below-freezing temperatures just got even colder on your face. If it’s too cold and too windy, this could cause wind chill.

2. It’s harder to skate. Depending on the direction of the wind, it could cause a lopsided game. Wind may give one team an advantage when they’re moving up the ice while making it harder for the opposing team to skate up the ice.

The fourth element at play is snow.

When you’re playing on an outdoor rink, precipitation is a factor. Except, it won’t be raining. Since you’re playing below freezing temperatures, it can snow.

While it’s beautiful, playing while it’s snowing can impact your skating experience very quickly. Skating around on a rink naturally scuffs up the ice, making it less smooth and harder to skate. When it snows, this process is sped up, making it harder to play on.

Indoor Hockey

In indoor hockey, none of those factors come into play.

Hockey arenas maintain a steady temperature. The sun doesn’t shine inside to impact player vision. There isn’t any wind. And, it certainly doesn’t snow indoors.

Overall, indoor hockey is much more stable, making it easier to play consistently day in and day out.

The Advantages of Outdoor Hockey

However, the main advantage of playing outdoors is that it opens up the game for regular people who can walk on over to their local outdoor rink so they can get more ice time in.

Plus, playing hockey on an outdoor rink creates a special feeling that’s hard to put your finger on—probably because it was the way hockey was originally played.

When Did Hockey Move Indoors?

Ice hockey originated in the great outdoors on natural ice rinks during the winter months back in the 1800s.

However, it wasn’t long before it moved indoors.

In 1875, James Creighton of Montreal, Canada hosted the first indoor hockey game at the Victoria Skating Rink.

Where Is the Oldest Indoor Hockey Arena in the World?

The oldest indoor hockey arena in the world is the Calumet Colosseum in Calumet, Michigan.

The ice hockey arena was constructed in 1913 and formally opened on January 1, 1914.

It was only built a few years after the Matthews Arena in Boston, Massachusetts (built in 1910). 

But, the Matthews Arena burned down in 1918, making the Calumet Colosseum the oldest indoor rink in the world.

What Types of Hockey Are Played Inside?

There are 4 main types of hockey that are played inside: ice hockey, roller hockey, bandy, and sledge hockey.

Ice hockey is the most popular type of hockey played on an ice rink indoors.

Roller hockey is similar to ice hockey, but instead of ice skates, players use roller blades. And, instead of a rubber hockey puck, they use a plastic ball.

Bandy is very similar to ice hockey in that it’s played on ice, with ice skates, but players use a ball (similar to roller hockey). Bandy is the national sport of Russia.

Sledge hockey is also played on ice, but is for disabled people who rest on a board with skates on the bottom.

There are two other types of hockey that are typically played outside, but can also be played inside: ball hockey (street hockey) and field hockey (called indoor hockey when played indoors).

What Types of Hockey Are Played Outside?

There are 2 main types of hockey that are played outside: field hockey and ball hockey (street hockey).

Ball hockey—or street hockey—is just like roller hockey except it is played on foot rather than in roller blades. It’s typically played outdoors but can be played indoors as well.

Field hockey is an alternate version of hockey popular in Europe and North America that is typically played outdoors on a grassy field but is also played indoors (indoor hockey).

However, there are 4 other types of hockey that are typically played indoors but can be played outside: ice hockey, roller hockey, bandy, and sledge hockey.

What Is “Indoor Hockey”?

Indoor hockey is an alternate version of field hockey that’s played indoors. 

Indoor hockey is very similar to field hockey except it’s played inside and on a smaller field.

Instead of playing on grass, it’s played on a hard, flat surface. Indoor hockey also has boards that the ball can bounce off.

Is Indoor Hockey Hard?

Overall, indoor hockey is a hard game to play. It’s a high-intensity sport that’s physically demanding.

Compared to regular field hockey (the outdoor version of the game)—it’s much harder. There are less breaks in the game which means players often need to use their skills at a higher level.

The pitch is also smaller compared to field hockey and requires fewer players. This means each player has less space and less teammates to rely on. This makes it more likely players will come into contact with the opposing team, speeding up the game.

Can You Play Ice Hockey Outside?

Yes, you can play ice hockey outside when temperatures are right.

In states where winters see consistent temperatures below freezing, outdoor rinks can be created. 

Most outdoor hockey players find a local pond, lake, or create their own backyard rink to play ice hockey outside in the winter.

What Is the Outdoor NHL Hockey Game Called?

There are 3 outdoor NHL hockey games: The Winter Classic, The Heritage Classic, and the Stadium Series.

The most popular event is the Winter Classic which occurs once every year.

Every year, two teams are selected to play against each other in the Winter Classic outdoor hockey event.

The game is played on a temporary outdoor rink—typically within an NHL arena that’s converted to accommodate an ice hockey game.

The results of the game count towards the NHL’s regular season.

How Many NHL Games Are Played Outside?

There have been 35 NHL games played outside since the first Heritage Classic was played in 2003.

Since 2014, the NHL has scheduled about 2-4 outdoor games, on average, every year.

The NHL Games are primarily hosted as 3 different events: The Winter Classic, The Heritage Classic, and The Stadium Series.

When Was the First Outdoor NHL Game?

The first outdoor NHL game was a Heritage Classic event played on November 22, 2003.

The game was played between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

Temperatures were extremely cold, reaching a low of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).

The Canadiens defeated the Oilers 4-3.

How Many Winter Classics Are There?

Since 2008, there has been one Winter Classic outdoor NHL game scheduled every year. 

The only exception was a cancellation in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been 13 NHL Winter Classic games played total, and 35 outdoor NHL games played total (including the Heritage Classic and Stadium Series events). 

Looking for more answers to the most common hockey questions? Be sure to check out our other popular blog posts: Is There a Size Limit for Hockey Goalies, Why Is Icing in Hockey Bad, and What’s the Best Height for Ice Hockey!


Recent Posts