Can You Push in Ice Hockey? (with Video Examples)

You’re skating down the wing, chasing after a loose puck.

You notice a player on the other team skating towards the puck.

You arrive at the puck at the same time. Now you’re battling for possession.

He just won’t get off the puck… What do you do?

Push him?

Well, you’ll want to be careful with that one. If you push a player the wrong way, it could be a penalty against you.

In this article, we’ll cover whether you can push in hockey, how it compares to cross-checking, and some tips on improving your physicality in the game.

Let’s dive in!

Here’s Whether You Can Push in Ice Hockey:

Yes, you can technically push in hockey. But there’s a certain way to do it. You’ll want to be careful with how you push your opponent. If you push the wrong way, you could end up with a holding, cross-checking, interference, or even a roughing penalty.

Is Pushing a Penalty in Hockey?

In hockey, there isn’t a pushing penalty. 

However, how you (or the official) interprets pushing could be taken the wrong way.

For instance, if you’re carrying the puck up the ice, and an opponent on the other team is trying to take the puck from you, you can protect the puck with your lower hand by putting it out as a shield.

If the player gets too close while you have the puck, there’s nothing illegal about giving a little nudge to push them away with your outside arm.

However, you want to make sure you don’t hold onto their jersey at all or you could be called for a holding penalty. 

And, you don’t want to push them too high up (for instance—in the face), or you could be called for roughing if it looks like you’re punching them.

And, while fighting is technically allowed in hockey, you’ll still get a penalty for it.

If you’re trying to take the puck away from the other team, and you’re battling along the boards, you can definitely give your opponent a nice shove to try to get them off the puck.

However, you can not, in any way, use part of your stick to push your opponent.

If you use your stick sideways to push your opponent, you’ll be called for cross-checking. 

If you use the end of your stick to push your opponent, you’ll be called for spearing.

It’s important to remember that your goal when defending is to try to use your stick first to get the puck away. Using your body and physicality should come second to your stick checking abilities.

Can You Push Away the Opponent’s Stick in Hockey?

Yes, if your opponent has their stick in their hand, you can use your own stick to press it down, or stick lift them. You can’t use your hand to push your opponent’s stick.

Just be careful with how you lift your opponent’s stick. If you swing your whole stick up too high and touch the player with your stick, you could get a hooking or even high-sticking call.

Also, if your opponent drops their stick, you can’t kick it away or push it away with your (with your hands, stick, or feet) as that will be called as an interference penalty.

USA Hockey Rulebook Rule 625 states:

“Preventing an opponent who has dropped their stick or any other piece of equipment from retrieving it.”

Plus, doing this with your opponent’s stick is also just a dirty play to make and is an easy way to make enemies on the ice, which won’t help your game.

What’s the Difference Between Pushing and Holding in Hockey?

You can push your opponent with your hand.

However, it should be in one quick motion. If you make contact for even more than a second you could be called for holding.

The USA Hockey Official Rulebook has this to say about holding penalties:

A player cannot wrap their arms around an opponent or use a free hand to clutch, grab, or hold the stick, jersey, or body on the opponent in a manner that impedes their progress.

The easiest way players get called for holding is when they’re trying to catch up to their opponent who’s carrying the puck.

This is a great video of Sidney Crosby showing how you can push away your opponent while you have the puck:

You’ll notice Crosby actually has 2 hands on the puck most of the time, using his lower body as a shield against defenders. However, sometimes he’ll use his left hand to shield himself from defenders, sometimes pushing them away slightly.

Can You Hit in Ice Hockey?

Yes, you can hit in ice hockey. 

However, hitting is only allowed once a player reaches Bantam level hockey (ages 13-14).

A hit is using the force of your body to make contact with the opponent to push them off the puck. You can use your shoulder, upper arm, and hip to force the opponent to lose possession of the puck. 

Hitting is only permitted against an opponent who has possession of the puck. 

Can You Hit the Goalie in Ice Hockey?

No, you can’t hit a goalie while playing hockey.

There are no exceptions to this rule. 

Many people may assume that a goalie can be hit fairly if they’re handling the puck outside their crease, but this is not the case.

What Is It Called When You Push Someone in Hockey?

There is no rule against pushing in hockey—under certain conditions.

You can push away a player who is trying to take away the puck from you. You can also push a player if you’re trying to get the puck away from them.

But, there’s one instance when you should be very careful when attempting to push the opposing player: when you’re battling for the puck along the boards or in the corner.

The penalty you could draw if you’re not careful with pushing is interference.

USA Hockey’s Rulebook defines one form of interference as:

“Intentionally physically engaging with an opponent who does not have possession or control of the puck.”

Now, there is a bit of leniency here—especially since there are times when you’re battling in the corner and can shove your opponent a bit to try to gain control of the puck. 

But, if you try to go and shove a random player and you’re not battling for the puck, or you aren’t even close to the play, you could see an interference call, or even roughing against you.

Can You Press an Opponent’s Stick Down With Your Stick?

Yes, you can press an opponent’s stick down with your own stick. 

However, you need to be careful not to press so hard that you could limit their ability to skate away.

This is useful in situations around your own net when you’re playing defense and you want to prevent a player from getting the rebound.

If you do it to a degree that it impedes their ability to move, you could be called for interference.

What’s the Difference Between Cross-Checking and Pushing?

There’s a fine line between pushing an opponent and cross-checking them.

The problem comes down to where your hands are that you’re pushing your opponent with.

While you can certainly make contact with your opponent with the hand that’s on the top of your stick, you should be careful.

If you’re pushing an opponent with both hands on your stick you are very likely to be called for cross-checking. 

You could technically push an opponent with both hands on your stick if it’s a smooth push. However, if your push is one quick motion against your opponent, it could be a penalty.

Here’s a good video that shows how you can legally “push” an opponent while you have your hand on your stick and with your free hand.

You should only try to push opponents with your hands that are free. 

USA Rule 609 states:

(a) A minor or major penalty shall be assessed to a player who delivers a check to an opponent using the stick with both hands on the stick and no portion of the stick on the ice (cross-checking).

(b) A major plus a game misconduct penalty shall be assessed to any player who injures an opponent as a result of cross-checking.

Looking for more answers to the most common hockey questions? Be sure to check out our other popular blog posts: Is There a Size Limit for Hockey Goalies, Why Is Icing in Hockey Bad, and What’s the Best Height for Ice Hockey!


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