Although ice hockey and field hockey both have “hockey” in their names and the same general strategy – score as many goals as possible in the opposing net – the sports differ from each other in several ways.
One of the differences is etymological. Depending on where the sport is being mentioned, “hockey” can refer to one or the other. For example, Canadians talking about tonight’s “hockey game” will almost always be referring to an ice hockey game, but those in places like Australia or India mentioning “hockey” will be speaking about the outside version of the sport.
Ice hockey players tend to wear significantly more equipment. One of the reasons is because the game is more physical than field hockey. In particular, no checking exists in the latter sport as there are no boards on a pitch. Also, ice hockey players go faster than field hockey players due to being on skates, which leads to their hits being harder than is possible for the latter group of competitors.
Importance of Goalies
Ice hockey goalies are more valuable to their teams than field hockey goalies. This is because the flow of a field hockey match tends to result in a team’s defensive players neutralizing attacking efforts before the ball reaches the goalie. Conversely, ice hockey goalies must face many more shots. For example, an NHL goalkeeper will need to respond to 30 shots per game. Field hockey goalies face around five.
As is likely not surprising, national teams from colder countries tend to perform much better in the ice version of this sport. For example, the ones with the most gold medals in that sport at the Olympics are Canada and the former country of the Soviet Union. Conversely, the ones with the most golds in field hockey are India, Netherlands and Australia.
Fan, media and corporate interest in ice hockey is definitely stronger as top players are paid significantly more than top field hockey players. It’s believed that the best field hockey players earn around $100,000 per year with the vast majority taking home significantly less than that. Conversely, the top NHL players earn around $15 million a year with hundreds of them being millionaires.