Olympics Field Hockey: What’s The Difference From Ice Hockey?

Field Hockey, Team Germany, Rio Olympics

The German women’s team trains in Rio before the Olympics start. (Getty)

Field Hockey is one of the first sports kicking off the Rio Olympics. The sport is more than just ice hockey on grass. In the past two Olympics, the German team has won the Gold medal on the men’s side, while the Netherlands has won the last two women’s field hockey goals. The U.S. hasn’t done so well in the sport, not winning even a bronze medal since the 1932 Los Angeles Games on the men’s side. The women’s team hasn’t won a medal since getting a bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Here’s a look at the differences between ice hockey and field hockey.


The goal of ice and field hockey is essentially the same – get a ball (in field hockey) or a puck (in ice hockey) in the goal. However, the number of players is different. As American Profile notes, there are 11 players on each team, five more than ice hockey teams. There is a goalie, plus five forwards, two backs and three halves.


The sizes of the goals are different. While ice hockey goals are just four feet high and six feet wide, the field hockey goal is bigger. It’s two seven-foot tall posts, 12 feet apart.


Team USA ,Team USA Field hockey, Olympics Field Hockey

Team USA practicing in Rio before the games. (Getty)

The equipment is also very different. An ice hockey stick is shaped like an “L,” while the field hockey stick looks like a “J.” It’s made of wood, glass fiber or carbon fiber, Coluseuminn.ca notes. Players also wear much less equipment than in ice hockey, although they can wear goggles and shin pads.


The periods are longer in field hockey than in ice hockey. In field hockey, the two halves are 35 minutes each, while in ice hockey, there are three, 20-minute periods that are also extended by commercial breaks.


The area of play is also bigger than an ice hockey trick. A field hockey pitch is a rectangle that’s 91.40 m (100 yd) by 55.00 m (60 yd). The game is now played on artificial turf rather than grass.


Field hockey came before ice hockey. The modern version of the game originated in Great Britain in the early 1800s, with the first team, the Blackheath Hockey Club, being founded in 1861. Then, the game spread around the world through British colonialism. India and Pakistan – both former British colonies – were dominant in the sport at the Olympic level for decades.

However, power has shifted to Germany and The Netherlands at the most recent Olympics. Since 1988, the Netherlands has won one bronze, two silver and two gold medals on the men’s side. Since 1992, the unified German men’s team has won three golds and one bronze.

On the women’s side, The Netherlands has won three gold, a silver and two bronze medals since women’s field hockey was introduced in 1980. The German women’s team has won one silver medal and one gold medal.


Katie Reinprecht, Team USA, Team USA Field hockey

Katie Reinprecht at a match against India in July. (Getty)

Team USA is competing in only the women’s tournament. The women begin play on Saturday against Argentina. They are in Pool B, along with Australia, Great Britain, Japan and India. Pool A is made up of The Netherlands, New Zealand, China, Germany, Korea and Spain.

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