Can you be in the goalie crease?

Some of the biggest controversies in hockey have to do with what a player can and cannot do in the goalie crease. The goalie crease is going to be one of the main areas of action in the game, because teams are trying to get the puck through the goalie crease and into the net. Many myths have developed around what a player can and cannot do around the goalie crease. 

So, can a player be in the goalie crease? A player is allowed to skate through the goalie crease or enter the crease to pursue a puck that has entered into the crease. However, a player in the crease is in no way allowed to obstruct or impede the movement of the goaltender as this will result in a goaltender interference penalty for 2 minutes. 

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What is the goal crease and why is it there? 

The goal crease is the portion of the ice surface directly in front of the hockey net. It measures from 1 foot on each side of the goal post to 6 feet at the outer point.

The crease is the portion of the ice that is given to the goaltender as his territory. The goalie is allowed to freeze any pucks that come to him while he is in the crease and players are not allowed to interfere with the goaltender at all in the crease area. 

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What are players allowed to do in the goal crease?

A common myth is that players are not allowed to enter the crease. This is false. Players are definitely allowed to skate through the crease

An example that you will often see is a goalie will be positioned on one side of the net and a player coming from behind the net will cut through the other half of the crease and then step out in front of the goaltender to screen him. As long as the player does not make contact with the goaltender or impede him in his ability to make a save this is perfectly legal.

As well, a player is allowed to go into the crease to pursue a puck that has not been covered up or frozen by a goaltender. 

For instance, a large part of goaltending is learning to control rebounds or, in other words, to make sure that the shot that you stop does not bounce out to an opposing player. However, this is not easy to do considering how hard hockey players shoot. So when a goalie stops a puck often a rebound will be produced and often that rebound will fall within the crease area. The opposing team is well within its right to enter into the crease to chase after that loose puck and score a goal. 

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In entering the crease to pursue a puck the player is still not allowed to apply physical contact to the goalie such as a body check or even deliberate aggressive contact that he would he would deliver to a defensemen. If a stick hits the goalies pads as he takes a shot at the puck, this will be allowed. 

What players are not allowed to do in the goal crease?

A player may not enter the crease to impede the goalie in anyway from their ability to make a save.

Contact with the goaltender is divided into two categories in the referee’s decision making: Incidental or intentional.

Incidental: The referee would determine that incidental contact (not intentional or deliberate) with the goaltender in the crease is allowed, but if the incidental conduct impedes the goalie in anyway from making a save then the goal will be disallowed. This is actually the most common type of play that is reviewed by video in the NHL – did a player make contact and impede the goaltender from making a save and thus cause a goal? 

The frustrating part from a fans standpoint is that the plays under question are highly subjective and commentators and players are never quite sure about the outcome of the video review. For the NHL, this is definitely still a work in progress!

One other point about incidental contact is that you will often see one of the defensemen accidentally push a player into his own goalie. This will be determined as no fault to the opposing team, and if a goal is scored on the subsequent play it will be counted. 

Intentional: Any contact with the goaltender while in the crease that is considered intentional will be a 2 minute minor penalty for goaltender interference. This most often looks like a player trying to come across the crease to be able to establish position in front of the net and they take a wrong angle and hit the goalie harder than expected. Additionally, a player may be in a shoving battle with a defensemen and the defensemen shoves the forward towards the goalie. The forward will often ‘accidentally’ fall into the goaltender. If the referee feels that the player fell into the goalie too easily, he will be assessed a penalty.

Related Question

Are goaltenders allowed to hit players?

A player may not be able to hit a goalie who has the puck, but a goalie can hit a player who has the puck. This does happen rarely because the goalie does not want to get himself out of position, which is what a body check to an opposing player would do behind the net or even in front of the crease leaving the net wide open for too long. The player checked may lose the puck, but the puck can still easily be captured by one of his teammates with a great opportunity to score.

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I am a lifelong fan who grew up in a major market (Calgary), and I have played, coached, and watched a lot of hockey!

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