Can you kick the puck in hockey?

A hockey player is quite talented with his feet, and I am not only talking about this skating ability. Players learn to use their feet to kick and direct the puck to themselves or a teammate. However, a player is allowed to kick the puck, except for one certain play.

When can you kick the puck in hockey? A player can kick the puck at anytime during a game of hockey without penalty, and is done often. A player may use his skate to direct or deflect the puck into the net. However, a player is not allowed to kick the puck into the net to score a goal.

When can a player kick the puck with his skate?

The player is allowed to kick the puck at anytime with his skate. The player is simply not allowed to score a goal by kicking the puck into the net.

As you watch a hockey game, you will see that players will use their skates quite often to kick a puck up to their own stick or to another opponent.

When battling with another player, often a player’s stick will be tied up by another opponent and will  not be able to play the puck in the way they usually like to play it — with their stick. This sometimes leads them — if the puck is close enough to their skates — to kick it to one of their teammates.

You will also see a number of battles along the boards in hockey where players are neutralizing the sticks of the opponents and the player has no choice but to use his feet to kick the puck up the boards.

Players actually spend a lot of time practicing being good with their feet and kicking the puck up from their feet to their stick as this happens so often in a normal course of play during a game!

 

Here is an amazing play by Pavel Bure, where his skillful puck-handling (including using his skate) is evident. I think Bure scores one of the nicest goals ever by using his skate to kick the puck up to his stick to score a goal. Enjoy!

But, can you score a goal off a skate?

Pucks going off of skates into the goal is an extremely common thing. It practically happens every game. It can even happen multiple times a game.

A player is allowed to deflect the puck into the net using their skate but they are not allowed to kick the puck into the net. So how does the referee determine when a player simply deflects the puck in off his skate vs. kicks it in? Well, let’s take a closer look at Rule 49.2 in the NHL Rules book.

Rule 49.2
A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official.

When officials use a video review to determine whether a goal is good or not, the phrase they are focusing on is ‘a distinct kicking motion’.

What’s the difference between a distinct kicking motion versus deflecting the puck using your skate?

The referees are looking to see if the players skate leaves the ice. If the player manages to keep the skate blade on the ice — even if they turn the skate to deflect a puck that is coming at them — then the referee will allow the goal. But, if the skate blade comes up at all off the ice, then the goal will be disallowed.

 

Why is a player allowed to deflect a puck in the net with his skate and not kick it in?

One word: safety. The NHL will do anything it can to prevent a player from kicking another player with a skate as this is extremely dangerous. Kicking another player is probably one of the largest taboos in hockey and if done intentionally would result in a long suspension.

Now, a player who is kicking at a puck around the goaltender would not be trying to kick the goaltender, they are trying to score. It is not kicking the puck that is dangerous, it is the fact that the goaltender (or other player around the crease) can get cut by a sharp skate blade that is the main concern.

There have been a few prominent injuries due to a player being cut by a skate in the history of the NHL. Most notably would be goaltender Clint Malarchuk of the Buffalo Sabres. Malarchuk was cut by a skate in the throat area, which caused a large amount of blood to be lost and could have easily died. To be clear, Malarchuk was not cut by someone trying to kick a puck, but the NHL simply wants to limit any chance that someone will get cut by a skate, so has fashioned rules around this.

To clarify the nuances of rules around skates & goals:

A goal WILL be considered a “good goal” (approved by officials) IF:

  • A kicked puck deflects off a players stick or an opponent’s stick and into the goal
  • A puck deflects off a player’s skate but is determined NOT to have used a “distinct kicking motion”

A goal will NOT be good (be disallowed) IF:

  • A kicked puck deflects off the body or pads of any player on any team before entering the net
  • A kicked puck deflects off the goaltender’s stick and into the net
  • A puck deflects off a player’s skate but IS determined to have used a “distinct kicking motion”
  • A player cannot kick any equipment (helmet, glove, etc.) at the puck or his stick at the puck to score. This seems obvious — and awkward.

Conclusion

So, yes, you can kick the puck in hockey – just not into the net! Watch how the NHL players use their feet with the puck. It is almost as if they are playing soccer sometimes.

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