Teams consist of 11 to 17 players with five skaters and one goalie on the ice for each team.
Much like soccer, play begins with a “Free Pass.” At the referee’s whistle, a visiting team’s player takes the ring from the Centre Ice Free Pass Circle (the Face-Off Circle in hockey or lacrosse), and has five seconds to pass it out of the circle to a teammate. A free pass will re-start the game after every stoppage, only from the circle closest to the action when play ceased. During restarts, the ring must be passed completely out of the circle. The player cannot skate out of the circle with the ring nor are players allowed in the Free Pass Circle during the five second count.
Passing the ring between teammates is very important in ringette. Rules restrict players from carrying the ring over a blue line in either direction so players must pass the ring over each blue line to a teammate. This results in a lot of interplay between teammates and therefore a tremendous amount of cooperation is needed to set-up a goal.
If the ring lands in or on the goalie crease, the only player who can touch it is the goalkeeper, who must pick up the ring and throw it to a teammate within five seconds.
At competitive levels, a 30 second shot clock is utilized, meaning a ring must be shot at the net or hit the goalie within that time-frame or the offensive team loses possession.
Free play lines define restricted areas in the deep offensive and defensive zones. Teams are allowed no more than three skaters at a time in these areas to avoid over-crowding, unless two or more penalties are being served by one team, or if a goalie has been pulled for an extra attacker.
Ringette is played predominantly by females. For safety reasons, no intentional contact is permitted. When contact does occur, penalties are assessed. Most penalties are two minutes, but a four minute Major is assessed for actions that are deemed intentional or particularly rough.