What does it mean to switch sides in ice hockey
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What Does Switching Sides Mean In Ice Hockey?

Are you familiar with the term switching sides in ice hockey? Is it new to you, or do you want to know what it means and its relevance to the sport? Switching sides is common in many sports leagues worldwide, but what does it mean in ice hockey?

What Does It Mean To Switch Sides In Ice Hockey

What Does It Mean To Switch Sides In Ice Hockey

In ice hockey, switching sides refers to a goalie and team members moving from one side of the ice to the other, and vice versa. Many professional sports leagues, including the NHL, regularly switch the positions of the opposing team’s two sides on the playing ground (rink, pitch, field, etc.).

Comparatively speaking to other sports, such as football, switching sides in ice hockey operates a different set of rules. How?

This is due to the fact that in regular time, switching sides happens twice in hockey. This is due to the fact that ice hockey games are divided into three 20-minute quarters.

In other words, each team will play twice on one side of the rink and once on the other.


For example, if the Rangers and Maple Leafs are playing in a game, the Rangers will take the left side during the first period while the Maple Leafs will take the right.

At the end of the first period, the teams trade sides as the second period begins. The Leafs go to the left as the Rangers move to the right. Finally, during the final period, they move back to their original sides.

Do teams switch sides during overtime?

Just like during regulation time, ice hockey teams also trade sides during overtime. They will have to transfer sides a third time if a game goes into overtime. Therefore, they keep one position for the first, and third periods, and then another position during the second and extra periods.

Historical Reference To Switching Sides

Historical relevance of switching sides

Initially, periods were not used in ice hockey games. Ice hockey was an outdoor sport in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Outdoor games on frozen lakes and ponds were used for both amateur and professional competitions at the time.

The participants and the game in general were exposed to the element of wind because it was in an open area (wind speed and direction). Also, the movement of the players was influenced by the wind’s direction, which was a natural component.

This meant that players who were skating against the wind went more slowly and this made the puck deflect. The game was divided into halves as a result, giving each team an equal chance to win.

This meant that throughout the first half, players controlled a specific area of the ice, and at the start of the second half, the teams switched sides. Back then, a game’s side changeover only happened once (during the second half).

Why do players switch sides twice in a game if this is the case?

Once ice hockey went indoors, a new format of exchanging sides between the first and second and second and third periods was introduced. Because the game was played on a synthetic ice surface, the ice needed to be cleaned frequently.

Over the course of a 60-minute game, cleaning the ice once was deemed insufficient, whereas cleaning it three times was deemed excessive. As a result, it was completed in between periods.

The game adhered to the custom of switching teams after each intermission even though the weather was not a factor.

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Reason For Switching Sides In Ice Hockey

Reasons for switching sides in ice hockey

There is always a reason for every rule, regulation, or custom, even in ice hockey. Teams, switching sides after each period, were not for fun. It is because of the impact it has on the game. 

Here are some of the advantages of teams switching sides. 

For An Even Game

From the days when ice hockey was played on frozen ponds and lakes to the present day when it is played on ice rinks, the goal of switching sides has always been to guarantee fair play.

In short, it was done so that both parties on a team enjoy the same opportunities that being on one side of the ice provides.

Nonetheless, the requirement was greater while it was outside. This was due to the fact that the elements, such as the sun, wind, and snow, might be detrimental to one end of the ice while benefiting the other. To make it more fair, a switch was implemented to lessen the advantage one side had due to its position on the rink.

To Increase Scoring Chances

Switching sides following a line change in ice hockey reduces players’ efficiency because they cannot be swapped for a line change on the bench.

During the first period of an ice hockey game, the team’s bench is on the same side as the skaters on the ice. Because the distance between the bench and the skaters is small, changing lines on the rink is simple.

Traditionally, a squad might immediately move to the bench and be replaced by another line of players (this is also called short change).

The location of players on the bench remains the same except in the second period when the teams trade sides. This makes it difficult for a line change to take place efficiently without allowing the opposing team an opportunity to score a goal.

So how does switching sides increase scoring?

A line change in ice hockey lasts around 45 seconds before another line change occurs. This ensures ongoing pressure and successful gameplay when new players enter the game will increased stamina and explosiveness.

However, after a team switches sides, it is difficult to make a line change without leaving the formation susceptible because their team’s bench is on the opposite side of the ice. Line changes can occur in this case if the game is halted due to an infraction.

Players (in this scenario, defensemen) will eventually exert themselves, resulting in tiredness and blunders that can lead to a goal. To be clear, the NHL enjoys seeing a rise in the number of game goals. This is because the league believes that more goals improve game excitement.

Fortunately, this only happens during the second period of an ice hockey game, when the game only lasts for the standard time. The setup for the third period is the same as during the first.

If the game is to go into overtime, a switch must be flipped.

Boost Fan Experience 

In ice hockey, rotating sides also allows supporters to see play from both sides of the ice, which is another benefit.

Some people take seats near the goal net at the furthest edges of an ice hockey arena. Others take a seat towards the sides of the rink’s center. Even though it costs more, seats towards the center of the rink provide a better perspective of the game.

The distance, though, may make it difficult for those at the ends of the ice to follow the game. So, even if it is only briefly, changing sides enables them to be closer to the action.

What Is A Long Change In Ice Hockey

What is a long change in ice hockey?

When the players on the bench are seated the furthest away from their goalkeeper, it is known as a long change in ice hockey. A line of players, such as defensemen, moves towards the bench during line changes, while another line of defensemen steps in to take their place.

Yet, it is challenging to make a line change when the bench is located far from where their team or goalkeeper is on the field. But if it does, it is referred to as a long change.

In the second half of a typical game, there are lengthy substitutions. But, if the game goes into overtime, it will also happen in overtime.

The guys on the bench do not shift when skaters swap sides between periods, as was previously said while we were talking about switching sides. As a result, the bench is positioned farther from the skaters and closer to the opposing team’s side of the rink.

Due to the simultaneous effects on both teams to make line change and the inability of players to alter shifts, the likelihood of a goal is typically higher than it is during the first or third period.

In Summary

  • Long change occurs in the second period and during overtime
  • It occurs because even though the skaters on the ice switch side, the bench does not switch side
  • It makes it difficult for line changes to occur
  • There is a higher chance of a team conceding a goal


The sport of ice hockey developed from an outdoor activity to one of the top leagues in North America. Even though it is still growing and dispersing, it has chosen to maintain some of its original guidelines (switching sides).

You ought to comprehend the game and the commentary better now that you are familiar with the terms “switching sides” and “long change”.

Thanks for reading. 

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