How Big Is a Hockey Rink? NHL Rink Size Compared in 2023

Posted on March 24, 2023 by Dan Kent
hockey rink

Have you ever wondered if every hockey rink is the same size? There are professional hockey arenas, local recreational rinks, Olympic-sized ice rinks, and rinks all over the world. 

Are they all the same size? Do they differ in size? What’s the difference between NHL and international ice regulations? We’ll break down all the numbers on hockey rink sizes here.

What’s The Size Of An NHL Rink?

Size of hockey rink

All NHL teams use ice that is 85 x 200 feet, and the rinks corner radius is 28 feet. In meters, this works out to be 61 meters long and 26 meters wide.

All NHL teams are required to use ice that is this size. While every NHL rink is the same size, players say that some arenas have boards and lighting systems that make games at some arenas different from others.

Although rink sizes vary across professional, international, and recreational arenas, the standard North American rink size will be an NHL sized rink.

Local arenas used for recreational hockey are often a good deal smaller than professional hockey arenas, though some are the size of NHL or Olympic rinks. In fact, I have an olympic-sized rink in my hometown.

How Big Is Olympic-sized Ice?

Olympic and international leagues use a ice surface that is 100 x 200 feet. Olympic or international arenas use ice that is similar in length to but wider than NHL rinks.

Because Olympic ice is 15 feet wider than the ice the NHL uses, this gives players more space and changes the dynamic of the game.

Why are international hockey rinks bigger?

This ice size, used in European arenas and during the Olympics, is believed to make the game faster. This is because there is more room across the ice for players to skate and pick up speed, pass, and avoid body checks.

As a result, European hockey is sometimes described as more focused on speed, skills, and puck movement than North American hockey, which emphasizes a physical game, with heavy hits and a more pronounced fighting culture.

With slightly less ice for NHL hockey players, body contact is more likely and players with the puck are pressured more quickly.

International ice hockey competitions could very well be heading to NHL sized ice permanently though. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) utilized an NHL sized ice surface in the 2022 Beijing olympics rather than an olympic one.

The layout of a hockey rink

No matter where you're playing hockey, the layout of the ice is the same. In all ice hockey rinks, you'll have 3 main lines, along with one section reserved specifically for goaltenders.

The goal lines

The goal lines are red lines painted all the way across the rink, and are used to determine whether or not a goal has been scored. A puck clearly across the goal line is counted as a goal. Secondly, the goal line is utilized by the linesman to determine whether icing, a common hockey infraction where a player shoots the puck down the ice before crossing the red line (we'll speak about that in a bit), has occured.

The blue lines

The blue lines (there are two) are used to determine the zone of each respective team. Along with this, they are used by the linesman to determine whether offside, a common hockey infraction where a player fully crosses the blueline without possession of the puck, has occurred.

If you are inside the blueline of the opposing team, you are inside your attacking zone, or offensive zone as it's sometimes referred to. If you are inside the blueline of your own team, you are inside the defending zone.

The red line

The red line is used to divide the rink in two. It is directly in the middle of the rink ice, and is used to determine whether icing has occurred. It is also where the faceoff is held during the very start of each period, when a goal is scored, or if an incorrect stoppage is called by a ref or linesman.

Prior to them getting rid of the rule during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, this line was also used to determine whether a two line pass had occurred.

From the redline to either blue line, this is often called the "neutral zone" as it is neither the attacking nor defending zone of a particular team.

The trapezoid

The trapezoid is an area behind the NHL net where goalies are permitted to touch the puck. Outside of this trapezoid shaped area, a penalty will be assessed if the goaltender touches the puck.

This was introduced in the 2005-2006 NHL season, as the league was seeing a significant decline in scoring, one of the reasons being NHL goaltenders were simply too good at retrieving the puck from the corners and clearing their defensive zone.

The distances between each line

On an NHL rink, there is approximately 11 feet from the goal line to the back boards. From the goal line to the blueline, there is a total of 64 feet. Finally, from blue line to blue line, there is around 50 feet.

The team benches and penalty box

The team benches are located in the middle of the ice on opposite sides of the red line. The penalty boxes is located on the opposite end of the ice, with penalized players waiting out their time and the scorekeeper keeping track of the game.

How tall are NHL hockey boards?

Surprisingly, there is no official height requirement for hockey boards. However for the most part all NHL rinks will use a board size that is 42" from the ice to the top of the boards.

The boards are 4' thick, and are reinforced heavily to allow it to withstand most blows.

Are AHL and NHL rinks the same size?

The NHL and AHL rinks are the same size, yes. Because the American Hockey League is where the National Hockey League frequently sends prospects to develop their skills, varying the size of the ice dimensions would be puzzling to say the least.

Are NHL rinks bigger than regular rinks?

Arenas that are used for recreational hockey vary in size around the world.

Most recreational arenas are smaller than the 85 or 100 x 200 feet rinks of the NHL and Olympics. Many are both thinner and shorter than these sizes, especially at older local arenas.

Often, part of the reason for the smaller arenas is that their primary users are children. Young hockey players do not need the significantly larger sizes of ice that professional hockey uses.

For reference, you will sometimes see small children skate on the NHL ice during the intermission of a game. It takes them a very long time to cover distance across the ice surface.

But at the same time, some recreational arenas are noted to use an NHL regulation-size or Olympic-size ice surface. Recreational leagues interested in the most competitive game can seek out these arenas for their games.

Ice time is precious commodity for hockey players, so any size rink is better than nothing. From pond hockey to street hockey players and leagues are resourceful.

For pro leagues, rinks must be a specific size, whereas for recreational or beer league hockey – any reasonable size is good for a game to get going.

Regulation hockey nets, on the other hand, are 6′ x 4′ (foot) and is the standard size across all levels of hockey from minors to the Olympics.

Are NHL rinks bigger than college?

College hockey rinks are the exact same as the NHL, measuring 85 feet wide by 200 feet long. Whether you're playing high-school, college, or junior hockey, you'll be playing on the same size of ice that the National Hockey League uses.

What is the ideal size for a backyard rink?

If you can fit a 24' by 40' rink in your backyard, that is the ideal size to be able to still skate around and possibly have a 3 on 3 game. If you have small children and the rink is more targeted towards getting them on the ice, you could easily have one that is 15' by 30'.

Building your own outdoor rink is an extensive task. That is why plenty of companies provide outdoor rink kits for people who'd like to get one installed quickly.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada,

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