The Stanley Cup Finals are ramping up, and the 2-2 tie in this unique matchup has all of us excited. Do you have a friend who could use a basic overview of the game? Or maybe you are that friend who wants to learn enough to watch Game 5—ASAP. Well, we are here to help.

Whether you’ve been invited to a watch party or want to be able to at least understand your friends’ conversations, knowing a few quick facts covering the basics of hockey as a game and a competitive sport during the Stanley Cup Finals can come in handy. We’ve put together a quick overview of facts that can help you understand the bigger picture when watching the players zoom around on the screen.

The Basics




  • Each team has up to 6 players on the ice at once, including the goalie.
  • 60 minute games — 3 twenty minute periods.
  • 5-minute sudden-death overtime periods played until tie is broken.
  • 2 linesmen call icing and off-siding (explained below).
  • 2 referees wear bright orange arm bands.
  • Off-siding: when moving into the opposing team’s zone, the puck must cross the blue line before the player’s skates do.
  • Icing: if a player shoots a puck to the other side of the rink and a non-goalie player on the opposing team touches the puck next—rule developed to prevent long shots just to waste time.
  • At the start of each period and after each goal, the game starts up again with a face-off in the center of the rink. After penalties or other temporary pauses, face-offs start at any of the nine face-off dots. Typically, the center players of each team will stand facing each other in the circle with the other players at least 15 feet (4.6 meters) away. The puck is dropped in the center of the circle.

Because Trouble Always Calls

  • Minor penalties involve tripping, slashing, roughing, charging, high-sticking, or having too many skaters on the ice. These result in the player sitting in the penalty box for two minutes; their team plays with one less player.
  • A team can have up to two players in the penalty box. Further penalties are staggered so that they start once the last one ends.
  • If a goalie is penalized, another player must sit in the penalty box for him.
  • Penalty shots are awarded when a player is tripped or pulled down from behind, the goalie throws his stick, a non-goalie players blocks the puck inside the crease (right in front of the net).
  • During a penalty shot, a player from the team awarded the shot starts with the puck at the center line and skates towards the opponent’s goal and goalie. The skater shoots once. They are the only two players on the ice.
  • Major penalties come when players drop gloves and throw punches or otherwise severely injure other players. This results in five minutes in the penalty box and possible fines or suspensions after the game.
  • When there are an uneven number of players in the penalty boxes, that means one of the teams has an advantage in number of players on the ice. That team has the power play. If they score during their power play, players sitting out for minor penalties rejoin their team; players sitting out for five-minute major penalties do not.

The Stanley Cup

  • Created in 1893
  • The names of every player on the winning team is engraved on the cup every year on the bands of the cup. It takes 13 years to fill up a band, after which the oldest band is removed and replaced with a new one.
  • The one displayed at the games today is a replica; the original is at the Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario. The way to tell the difference between the two is the dozen or so misspellings of names on the original.

2015 Finals

This year’s finals matchup is unique and interesting in many ways. The biggest factor is that Chicago is one of the Original Six teams, while Tampa Bay Lightning is a newer team that joined during the expansion of the NHL. In comparison, Florida has a much smaller hockey following, and the Black Hawks have almost an NHL dynasty.

  • The Original Six teams include the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Buins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the Detroit Red Wings, and the New York Rangers. They joined the NHL between 1917 and 1926.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning was founded in 1992. They have won the Stanley Cup only once in 2004. This is their second appearance in the Finals.
  • The Chicago Black Hawks have 5 Stanley Cup Championships. This is their thirteenth appearance in the finals and their third in six years
  • These two teams have never met in the Finals.
  • Both teams won their last appearance in the finals.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning is the first team to ever face four consecutive Original Six teams in their playoff rounds. Before facing Chicago, they played and won against the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Rangers.