Can you touch the puck? Can you hold the puck? Can you pass the puck? Can you throw the puck?
What exactly can you do with the puck?
How far is too far when it comes to handling the puck with your hands?
And what is allowed when it comes to throwing the puck and hand passes?
In this article, we’ll answer every question you have about handling the puck with your hands in hockey. You’ll learn when it’s okay, when it’s illegal, and when you’ll end up with a penalty.
And, if you want some tips on following the puck in hockey, check out this article!
Let’s dive in.
Here’s Whether You Can Throw a Hockey Puck:
In hockey, you are not permitted to throw a puck to your teammate unless you are in your defensive zone. If you are in the neutral or offensive zone and you pass your teammate the puck, it will result in a stoppage of play followed by a faceoff.
Can a Hockey Goalie Throw the Puck?
No, a hockey goalie can’t technically throw a puck.
It will result in a minor penalty—leaving your team on a 2 minute penalty kill.
However, goalies can get away with throwing the puck to the side or backwards.
Here’s what the NHL Rulebook says about goalie’s throwing the puck in Rule 67.3:
“A goalkeeper shall be assessed a minor penalty when he throws the puck forwards towards the opponent’s net. In the case where the puck thrown forward by the goalkeeper being taken by an opponent, the Referee shall allow the resulting play to be completed, and if goal is scored by the non-offending team, it shall be allowed and no penalty given; but if a goal is not scored, play shall be stopped and a minor penalty shall be imposed against the goalkeeper.”
It’s important to make a distinction between what’s considered passing the puck versus throwing the puck.
“Throwing the puck” would be considered opening your hand, making a closed fist, and propelling the puck forwards intentionally toward the other goal with force.
This is contrary to simply “passing the puck” which can occur by a gentle pass towards a teammate.
Can a Hockey Player Use His Hands?
A hockey player can use his hands—but he has to be very careful.
There are few moments in hockey when you are legally allowed to use your hands as a player.
For instance, you can only technically use your hands in 3 situations legally:
- To catch the puck out of the air and put it on the ice in front of you
- To catch the puck out of the air and throw it to your teammate in your defensive zone
- To slide the puck on the ice with your hand to your teammate in your defensive zone
Other than that, there are many instances where it is illegal to use your hands in hockey:
- if you hold onto the puck
- If you touch the puck in your own crease
- If you throw the puck at the opponent’s goal
- If you pass the puck to your teammate in the neutral or offensive zones
All of these illegal plays will—at the least—result in having a whistle blown and a faceoff taken. Or they could result in you receiving a penalty.
And, worst of all, you could cause a goal to be automatically scored against you if you touch your puck in your own goalie’s crease.
What Is the Hand Pass Rule in USA Hockey?
In USA Hockey, hand passes are not allowed unless you do so in your defensive zone.
Rule 618 (b) states:
“(b) A player or goalkeeper is not be allowed to “bat” the puck in the air, or push it along the ice with his hand, directly to a teammate unless the “hand pass” has been initiated and completed in his defending zone, in which case play shall be allowed to continue. If the “hand pass” occurs in the neutral or attacking zone, a stoppage of play will occur and a face-off will take place according to the last play face-off rules provided no territorial advantage has been gained.”
Simply put, if you make a hand pass in USA hockey to your teammate in the neutral or offensive zone, a whistle will be blown to stop the play and a faceoff will occur.
What Is the Hand Pass Rule in NHL Hockey?
The “hand pass” is a rule that states you can’t pass the puck with your hand to your teammate.
In the NHL, this is known as “Rule 79”.
Here’s an excerpt from the NHL Rulebook on the “Hand Pass” rule:
“79.1 Hand Pass – A player shall be permitted to stop or “bat” a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice officials, he has directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to gain an advantage, and subsequently possession and control of the puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or deflected off any player or official.”
What Is “Closing Your Hand on the Puck” Rule?
There is another rule related to the “hand pass” rule that has to do with how long you hold the puck.
In hockey, you’re allowed to grab the puck out of the air (or on the ice), but you must immediately put it down or slide it away.
If you close your hand on the puck and hold it, you will be called for a penalty.
Here’s what the NHL Rulebook states about handling the puck in Rule 67.2:
“67.2 Minor Penalty — Player – A player shall be permitted to catch the puck out of the air but must immediately place it or knock it down to the ice. A player shall be assessed a minor penalty for “closing his hand on the puck”:
(i) If he catches it and skates with it, either to avoid a check or to gain a territorial advantage over his opponent;
(ii) If he places his hand over the puck while it is on the ice in order to conceal it from or prevent an opponent from playing the puck;”
The NHL rulebook also states something very interesting about holding the puck in your own goal crease:
“NOTE: When this is done in his team’s goal crease area, a penalty shot shall be assessed (67.4) or a goal awarded (67.5).
(iii) If he picks the puck up off the ice with his hand while play is in progress.
A minor penalty shall be assessed for “delay of game — face-off violation” to a player taking the face-off who:
(i) Attempts to win the face-off by batting the puck with their hand.”
Is a Hand Pass a Penalty?
No, a hand pass is not technically a penalty in hockey. However, it is an illegal play resulting in an infraction.
Many illegal hockey plays result in a severe infraction like a 2 minute minor penalty (in the penalty box). Some even result in a game misconduct (when a player is kicked out of the game)
But, a hand pass will only result in a lesser infraction.
Lesser infractions are those that cause play to stop but don’t result in a penalty. The most common lesser infractions are from icing and offside plays.
In the case of a hand pass, it will result in a stoppage of play and faceoff.
NHL Rule 79.3 states:
“When a hand pass violation has occurred, the ensuing face-off shall take place at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the offense occurred, unless the offending team gains a territorial advantage, then the face-off shall be at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the stoppage of play occurred.”
Can You Hand Pass to Yourself in Hockey?
The rule in hockey is that if you catch the puck out of the air with your hands, you must immediately drop the puck.
You can not catch the puck and skate with it in your hands. You also can’t pass it to your teammate (unless you’re in your defensive zone). And, you can’t throw it in the net for a goal.
But, what about passing it to yourself?
Yes, you can technically “pass” the puck to yourself.
When you catch a puck out of the air, you must immediately put it down—in doing so, you are technically passing the puck to yourself.
A great example of what it looks like to pass yourself the puck in hockey is Alexandre Burrows’ Overtime goal in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Is a Hand Pass Ever Legal?
Hand passes are almost always illegal.
However, there is one instance when you can pass the puck to your teammate with your hand: in the defensive zone.
If you and your teammate are both in your own zone, you are legally allowed to hand pass them the puck.
So, why are you allowed to hand pass in your defensive zone but not in the neutral or offensive zones?
The reason is because a hand pass in the defensive zone is much less likely to create a game-changing play. The flip side is, a hand pass in the offensive zone could create a play that drastically alters the game.
If you make a hand pass in the offensive zone, your team receives an immediate offensive chance that could create a quality scoring opportunity.
But, in your own end—since a hand pass doesn’t cause the puck to immediately clear the zone, your team still has to make an effort to create a new play to enter the offensive zone and attack the net.
What Is an Example of a Hand Pass in the NHL?
Sometimes, illegal hand passes don’t get called.
Arguably the most controversial hand pass came in the third round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the Western Conference finals, the St. Louis Blues matched up against the San Jose Sharks.
Game 3 went to overtime and things took a very controversial turn in the series. The sharks were in the offensive zone when Timo Meier swatted the puck with his hand to Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist then quickly passed to Erik Karlsson who scored in overtime to win the game.
But, the refs never made the call on the illegal pass.
You can see the play unfold in this video of the illegal hand pass (and overtime goal):
Can You Throw the Puck Into the Net?
No, you can not throw the puck into the opposing goalie’s net.
If you do, it will result in a no-goal, and a whistle will be blown for a face-off.
However, if you throw the puck into your own net, you can be certain it will be called as a goal for the other team. This has happened by accident a few times in the NHL.
To learn more about the basics of hockey, be sure to check out our other popular blog posts: Can You Push in Ice Hockey, What Are Hockey Breezers, and Is Ice Hockey Hard to Learn? Plus How You Can Speed Up the Process.