Professional ice hockey today is played in multi-million dollar arenas in front of tens of thousands of fans.
But… that’s not where it started.
In fact, hockey began somewhere… on some little frozen pond… in the middle of nowhere… with a stick and a makeshift puck.
And… while most ice hockey games are played inside enclosed arenas today—playing on an outdoor rink in the winter is still one of the most popular versions of hockey today.
So… if you’re thinking about showing up to your first outdoor hockey game, you may be wondering exactly what the rules are…
In this article, we’ll share with you everything you need to know about playing on an ODR (outdoor rink).
Let’s dive right in.
Here Are the Rules of Hockey on an ODR (Outdoor Rink):
1. No slap shots, 2. You shot it, you get it, 3. Random Teams, 4. Let Kids In, 5. Don’t Stop Breakaways, 6. No Ringers, 7. No Fancy Jerseys, 8. Switch Goalies, 9. Shovel the Ice.
What Is an ODR in Hockey?
In hockey, an ODR stands for outdoor rink. It’s any ice hockey rink that you can play on outside. This could be an official rink set up and run by your city, it could be a lake, river, or pond that’s frozen over, or it could be an unofficial private rink created in your backyard.
What Is ODR Season?
ODR, or, outdoor hockey is one of the most exhilarating ways to play the game of ice hockey. Every winter, as soon as temperatures start dropping consistently below freezing in certain parts of the world, hockey fanatics begin building their outdoor rinks.
ODR season simply stands for outdoor hockey rink season. It’s the time of year when you can consistently find outdoor hockey rinks to play ice hockey on.
Depending on where you live, it can be one of the easiest ways to play the game consistently all winter long, since it’s easy to find ice time.
ODR season typically lies anywhere from early December to February (depending on where you live).
Larger hockey cities will even establish and run their own city rinks that typically are maintained very well and have official boards (and even schedules up).
You can easily Google outdoor rinks in your local city to find a list of the city’s official outdoor rinks to play on.
1. No Slap Shots
Rule number one is a big one: no slap shots.
This is probably the most common rule for outdoor hockey among any rink you play at.
However, regardless of how commonplace this rule is, it’s incredible how often it’s broken.
It seems like every few games, someone does a full wind-up-Shea Weber-like clapper from the point
There are two main reasons you really should never take a slap shot on an ODR:
1. Most people are there playing for fun—not for a championship trophy. This means they’re probably not wearing full gear like shin pads, a jock or jill, pants, or possibly even a helmet.
You could seriously injure someone who isn’t used to playing high-level hockey or who simply doesn’t have proper gear on to be able to take a slapshot to their body—or worse, their face.
2. The second reason you should never lay down a heavy slap shot on an outdoor rink is because of the worst thing about outdoor rinks: losing a puck.
Oftentimes, outdoor rinks don’t have boards to keep the puck in. And, even those with boards don’t typically have netting behind them to further keep the puck contained.
If everyone was taking slap shots throughout the game, you’d be losing 10-15 pucks every game. Most games typically lose a handful even without slap shots, so this can get really annoying for anyone playing.
The worst thing that could happen when playing on an ODR is RUNNING OUT OF PUCKS. That would be a really crappy way to end the game early.
Don’t rip slap shots. Period.
2. If You Shoot it Out, You’re Getting It
This is the second most common ODR hockey rule: Did you shoot it out? Well then, you’re getting it.
Most outdoor rinks don’t have boards. They don’t have netting behind the net. Some don’t even have nets.
If you’re the guy who shoots the puck out, you’re the guy who has to go and find it—and bring it back!
Nobody really likes this rule, but it’s quite fair. If your shot winds up 20 feet outside of the rink, you’ll be taking a lap to get it.
Here’s a bonus tip: don’t want to skate all that way to hunt down the puck for sometimes 2 minutes? Keep one or two extra pucks in your pockets so you can simply throw in a puck right away and get back to the game.
3. Randomize The Teams
I get it. You called up your friends to meet you at the outdoor rink.
You want to play with your buddies.
But, you know what’s even better than winning with your friends?
Beating your buddies at the ODR for bragging rights.
The easiest—old-fashioned way—to randomize the teams is to simply put sticks in the middle. Then go back and forth, tossing sticks to each side until teams are made up (just make sure to remember which stick is yours!).
If you find the teams are really uneven, just make a trade or re-do the stick toss.
4. Let the Kids & Beginners In On It
Similarly to rule #1 (no slap shots), you have to remember that you’re not playing in the Stanley Cup Finals here.
You’re on an outdoor rink. Yes, it can get competitive. Yes, you can go all out at times (depending on who you’re playing with).
But… When it comes down to it, everyone’s there to have fun.
If you’re playing at full pace and you notice a couple kids—or even beginners of any age—come on the ice, then it’s time to wheel back a bit.
While the game may be slower at times, you really should play down so beginners and kids can get in on the game.
You were in their same spot one day—taking a shot at playing on the outdoor rink. They’re probably nervous and likely not that confident on skates. Be there to support them. Let them in, make some passes to them, and don’t try hard against them.
In a few years time, these players could be going head-to-head against you (or with you), so be kind.
Don’t be afraid to cheer them on when they make a play or score, and offer some tips to help them improve their game.
You’ve gotta remember that everyone’s there for the love of the game and to have fun. You never really know how big of an impact you could have on a young player’s game by simply letting them play with the “good guys”.
5. Don’t Stop a Breakaway
This is an interesting one.
It’s closely related to the last rule (let kids and beginners play).
If you’re chasing the opponent who’s on a breakaway and you’re 10 feet behind him, just let him have it.
Everyone’s here to have fun, and we all want to see some nasty dangles. There’s really no point in wasting all your energy trying to catch a guy who’s way ahead of you. This could be risky for his (and your) safety.
You don’t want to send someone—or yourself—flying into the net or boards and end up injured.
But… if you’re in a next-goal-wins scenario, just giv-er. All bets are off.
6. Don’t Be a Ringer
Ringer. Sandbagger. THAT guy.
There’s a few different names for this player… but they all mean the same thing.
If you’re an elite hockey player, and you can easily school everyone out there…
Remember, this is ODR hockey. Everyone’s there to have fun.
You know what’s not fun? Playing against someone 10 times better than you (and everyone else) who dominates.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try. But, if you can tell the people you’re playing with are all at least a few levels lower than you, then slow your roll a bit.
If you’re not passing the puck, you’re yelling at teammates to backcheck, and you’ve already scored 10 goals, you may be a ringer.
If you’re playing and you realize this is you, then ease up a bit. The best thing you could do is pass the puck to the “not-so-good” guys.
You know you’ll be making some sweet passes. The other team will see you making these passes. But, at least you’ll be sharing the puck with the other guys so you won’t be seen as a jerk and everyone will still have fun.
7. Leave Your Fancy Jersey at Home
This is a rule that really isn’t that important.
However, it is if you don’t want to be chirped.
As a kid, go ahead and wear your favorite NHL jersey to the ODR game.
But… once you start hitting your teens, it can be seen as a negative to be wearing the fanciest jersey you have on the ODR.
Yes, we all love impersonating our favorite NHL legends… but, unfortunately there’s a negative stigma to flashing off a $200+ jersey to all your teammates and opponents.
Plus, you’ll likely end up tearing up your best jersey if you play with it—which won’t be fun when you’re cheering your favorite team on.
8. Switch the Goalies Up
If you’re playing with one or two goalies, this rule will apply.
Obviously if you don’t have goalies, you can skip over this one.
If you’re playing with two goalies, then you should only really switch after a while if one team is dominating.
Generally speaking, if there’s a 5+ goal difference after 20-30 minutes, then you should consider letting the goalies switch sides to even things out.
If you only have one goalie, you should also use this rule.
A game with one goalie means the other team has to shoot on posts or the cross-bar. You should create a rule that for every 3 or 5 posts the team hits, the goalie switches sides.
This ensures each team gets to shoot on the goalie, which helps keep things even—and fun.
9. Last Group Shovels the Ice
Quite possibly the second-most-important rule after “no slap shots” is this one.
Anyone who doesn’t follow this rule may have a target on their back the next game.
Basically it goes like this: if you’re the last group of hockey players off the ice on the outdoor rink, you have to shovel the ice.
You are now the zamboni.
Someone has to clear the ice for the next day. And, if it’s not done, then no one will play.
Obviously, if you’re playing on a well-maintained outdoor rink that’s run by the city, then you may not have to do this.
But, always assume you’ll be on shoveling duty when the game’s over.
It really doesn’t take long—especially if everyone chips in.
This makes it easier on everyone involved, especially for the volunteers who might have to flood the ice right after you’re done to ensure there’s fresh ice the next day.
Can You Think of Anymore Outdoor Hockey Rules?
Well, that’s all of the most common ODR rules! Hopefully, by now, you’re ready to head out to your local pond or rink and strap on your skates for a good game of ice hockey!
Did we leave out any other ODR hockey rules?
Let me know any other rules you can think of!
P.S. It’s important to remember… When playing on an official city rink that each rink has its own official rules to play by. For instance, the City of Toronto has a rule that you can’t bring a hockey stick or puck onto the ice during their scheduled “Public Skating” times.
Your official city rinks also may enforce a rule for anyone playing hockey to wear a helmet. Make sure to check your city website or contact the rink contact to double check the rules as they can vary from rink-to-rink or city-to-city.
And, if you’re a beginner looking to learn the game, I highly recommend starting with these two posts: What’s the Easiest Hockey Position and Is Ice Hockey Hard to Learn? Plus How You Can Speed Up the Process.