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How Many Hockey Players On A Team?

A simple question with so many different answers! How many hockey players on a team? You will quickly see why this question has so many possible answers!

Hockey is an incredibly popular sport that has many different formats.

The most well-known version is, of course, ice hockey, which has its roots in Canada, as well as across Northern and Eastern Europe. But there are many varieties of hockey apart from ice hockey, including field hockey, bandy, and roller or inline hockey as well. 

At its core, hockey is a game played between two teams on varying types of surfaces, depending on where in the world you may be playing it.

The objective is to use curved hockey sticks to shoot a puck or ball into the opposing team’s goal as many times as possible throughout the game.

While the rules vary amongst all of the different versions of hockey, this underlying goal remains the same throughout them all. 

The premier hockey league is the NHL or National Hockey League which is based in North America with franchises across Canada and the United States. There are many international ice hockey tournaments including the Winter Olympics, World Junior Championships, and the World Cup of Hockey. 

How Many Hockey Players on a Team?

Of course, the easy answer is, it depends on which variation of hockey you are asking about. Generally speaking, when people ask about hockey they do mean ice hockey, so let us answer the question: how many hockey players on a team? In the NHL, a team roster consists of 20 players who dress for each game. This consists of 18 skates and 2 goaltenders, and the general breakdown is twelve forwards and six defenseman.

The twelve forwards can be broken down into four lines of three forwards each, one center, one left wing, and one right wing.

The defenseman plays in pairs consisting of one left side defense and one right side defense per pairing. Only one goaltender plays in goal at a time, so the second goaltender is there for back-up purposes.

In ice hockey, there are only six players on the ice at all times for one team, five skaters and one goaltender. The coach is actually able to play any combination of players they wish, as long as five of them are skaters. There are also certain examples of when there may be more or less players on the ice at a given time. 

Power Plays and Penalties

When a team takes a penalty they are considered to be short-handed, which means one player is in the penalty box serving the penalty, while the other four players stay on the ice.

This is called a power-play for the team that has not been penalized as they now outnumber the penalized team by one player. If the penalized team takes another penalty they will be down two players which would make a 5 on 3 powerplay situation for the other team. 

Other Forms of Hockey:

As mentioned above, there are many forms of hockey aside from ice hockey played around the world. One of the more popular versions is field hockey, which is exactly as it sounds, hockey played on grass or turf.

Field hockey is primarily a North American term as hockey generally implies ice hockey in these cultures.

Around the world, it is referred to as just hockey or land hockey in Scandinavia. 

Field Hockey: How many hockey players on a team?

Field hockey has a very interesting setup and the positions actually closely resemble soccer or football, rather than ice hockey. Firstly, the field is much larger than an ice rink and resembles a pitch more so than a field. The goals are also larger, and while not quite as large as soccer nets, are quite a bit bigger than ice hockey nets. 

How many players on a field hockey team? Eleven aside with groups of forwards, midfielders, and defense, as well as a goaltender. Similar to soccer, these positions are fluid and players can actually play on all parts of the field, rather than in ice hockey where players more or less stick to their side of the ice. 

Roller or In-line Hockey: How many hockey players on a team?

Closer to ice hockey than field hockey for sure, roller hockey is a popular alternative to ice hockey especially in warmer climates that do not have a lot of ice rinks. One of the major differences in terms of personnel for roller hockey is that there are only five players on the floor for each team: four skaters and a goaltender.

Why the difference?

There is not really one reason but some suspect it is to allow roller hockey to be a higher possession game which slows the pace right down. With fewer players on the floor, it gives each player more space to operate and more time with the puck. 

Ball Hockey: How many hockey players on a team?

Similar to roller hockey in that it is played on a hard floor, ball hockey has five runners on each team as well as a goaltender.

There are set forward and defensive lines as well, so ball hockey has a closer resemblance to ice hockey in its personnel than roller hockey.

Ball hockey is played with the players in shoes rather than skates and is played with a ball rather than a puck.


There are many variations of hockey that are played on nearly every continent in the world.

When most people refer to hockey they are presumably speaking about ice hockey, which is the most popular version. Ice hockey and other variations like a ball hockey stick to the traditional lineup of five players and a goaltender.

Field hockey is played on a massive playing field with eleven players aside as well as a goaltender.

Finally, other forms of skating hockey like roller hockey have chosen to play the game with four players and a goaltender.

Regardless of the format or number of players, one thing we can all agree on is that hockey is an extremely entertaining sport to both watch and play, and now we know just exactly how many hockey players are on each team.