Can a goalie cover the puck outside the crease?

The NHL loves to have the game of hockey play fast with few stoppages. This is one of the reasons that the goalie is the only player that is allowed to cover the puck in hockey to freeze the puck. However, where exactly is the goalie allowed to freeze the puck in hockey? Is it just in the crease?

There are certain times when a goalie is allowed to cover the puck outside of his crease. The rules allow a goalie to cover the puck outside the crease if it is part of blocking a shot then freezing the puck immediately. Otherwise, a goalie who comes outside of the crease to freeze the puck will be assessed a 2 minute penalty for delay of game.

Let’s look at this rule more in-depth and some of the situations that can apply!

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Why goalies leave their crease to stop pucks

Playing goalie is a difficult job – it is not easy to see and stop a puck that is travelling at 100mph!

One of the most common strategies for a goalie to stop a puck is what is termed ‘cutting down the angles’.  Since it is so hard to simply react and move your body in time to stop a puck that is going 100 mph, the best strategy to make a save is to create a smaller target for the shooter to hit. By coming further out of the net towards the shooter, the goalie is able to cover more of the net thus reducing the shooting area – he has cut down the angle.

When you watch hockey the commentator will often criticize a goalie for playing too far back in his crease. This is because the shooter will be able to see too much of the net to shoot at and the goalie simply does not have a reaction time quick enough to stop the puck.

So the goalie in his attempt to cut down the angle needs to come out of his crease or play at the top of his crease to have the best opportunity to cut down the angle and make the save.

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When the goalie legally covers the puck outside of the crease?

Since the goalie’s strategy is to come out from the goal line and the crease to stop the puck, often a goalie will stop the puck outside the crease either catching the puck there or having the puck fall to the ice and then covering it up. Both of these situations are perfectly legal.

The goalie is allowed to come out of the crease, stop the shot, and cover up the puck when it is in an act of making a save in a puck directed towards the net. This play happens dozens of times each game, and is something you will see all the time.

In addition, sometimes you will see the goaltender reach outside the goal crease and cover up a puck that is coming by, but not at the net. This is perfectly legal as well as long as there is some amount of pressure by the opposing team and the goalie has part of his body in the crease area.


When will the goalie be penalized for covering the puck outside the crease?

There are instances when a goalie will be penalized if they cover the puck outside of the crease area.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Let’s say a goalkeeper leaves the crease in a foot race with one of the forwards from the opposing team and gets to the puck and falls on it to freeze it. Should the goaltender be penalized?

Yes, the goaltender in this case is not in the act of making a save on a shot from an opposing player but simply comes out of his crease to jump on a loose puck and, therefore, is assessed a delay of game. When a goaltender comes out of his crease to play a loose puck they have an obligation just like any other player to move the puck and keep the flow of the game.

Another example would be a goaltender who saves a puck and then drops the puck to his stick to put the puck back into play. Could the goaltender after playing the puck to his stick drop down and cover the puck and force a stoppage of play? If there is no immediate opposing player in the vicinity the goalie will be assessed a minor penalty for delay of game.

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Sometimes a goalie will drop the puck to his stick to only cover it again quickly if an opposing player is closer than he first thought and wants to take no chances of turning over the puck. However, if there is not opposing player close to him and he still covers the puck than a penalty will definitely be assessed. If the goalie had sufficient time to drop the puck to the ice, he is determined to have sufficient time to move the puck without having to cover it up.


Can a goalie be assessed a delay of penalty for covering up the puck in his own crease?

Yes, there are situations a goalie can be assessed a delay of penalty for covering the puck even in his crease. If the puck was to be shot on goal and there is no opposing player anywhere close to the puck and the goalie simply freezes the puck, then he will be called for a delay of game.

This is to prevent the situation where a puck has simply been fired down the ice by the opposing and goes to the goalie, and instead of the goalie playing the puck he stops it even though no player is closing in on him. The NHL wants to keep the flow of the game going and prevent unnecessary whistles. Therefore, when a goalie stops the pucks without any pressure around him this is deemed unnecessary and is assessed a delay of game penalty.

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