When you’re watching professional hockey, you’ll notice that body checking is a part of the game. But a special set of rules seem to relate to the hockey goalie, who is rarely involved in collisions. Can players hit the goalie? What happens if they do hit the goalie? Will they be penalized if they check the goalie or poke at pucks in the goalie’s equipment? We’ll break down the specifics on hitting the goalie and poking at pucks here.
Although hockey is a contact sport, different rules exist to protect goalies. You cannot body check the goalie as you would other opponents on the ice. If you do, accidentally or intentionally, you will get a two-minute goalie interference penalty. You can dig and poke at the puck so long as the goalie does not have it safely covered in their equipment. If the goalie has covered the puck, poking at them with your stick can incur a slashing penalty.
Can you body check the goalie?
Hockey goaltenders are not fair game for body checks. Even though hockey is a contact sport, rules exist to protect them as they fulfill a unique role on the ice – as the netminders.
Minor incidental contact with the goalie in their crease, or outside of the net if the goalie has vacated the crease, can sometimes occur. But you should avoid collisions with the goalie.
Is it a penalty to hit the goalie?
If you do collide with the other team’s goaltender, you will be assessed a two-minute minor penalty for goalie interference.
Goalie interference penalties are called regardless of whether or not your collision with the goalie is accidental.
It is your duty as a player to avoid running into the goalie, so you are seen as responsible for this collision even if it is accidental.
Goalies, however, are aware that even minor collisions with them can result in penalties. For this reason, goalies are sometimes accused of diving (or “flopping”) whenever they feel any contact with opponents.
NHL goalies like Michal Neuvirth and Alex Stalock have even recently been fined $2,000 by the league for repeatedly diving.
But you should not give the referee a reason to call a goaltender interference penalty on you. Don’t hit the goalie, and don’t even make enough contact to allow the goalie to potentially dive and draw a penalty on you.
The only instance in which a collision with the opponent’s goalie is not a penalty is if an opponent pushes or checks you directly into their team’s goalie. You would not be responsible or penalized for this type of hit.
Why can’t you hit the goalie?
If players were permitted to body check the goalie during the game, it would greatly hinder the goalie’s ability to stop the puck.
This would include when the goalie leaves the net to play the puck. If the goalie got hit and knocked down while out of the net, it would lead to unfair empty net goals.
But safety is another main factor that prevents players from hitting the goalie. Goalies are particularly vulnerable to injuries in collisions for several reasons.
For one, goalies stare down the action coming toward them. They are standing still in their crease while players speed down the ice toward them.
Goalies play with the mindset that they will not be hit by the players. This allows them to confidently face the oncoming play and stand in-front of players’ shots.
For this reason, goalies are often not braced for collisions when they do occur, which increases their chances of injury. They also trust that players will not hit them when they leave their net.
In other words, goalies are thinking about stopping the puck and not avoiding collisions with players. It is the duty of the players to steer clear of the goalie.
Though it would not lead to a penalty, you should have a similar mindset for your own team’s goalie too. They are also not expecting you to hit them, so make sure you watch for them – especially if you’re a defenseman skating backwards toward your own net.
Can you poke at the puck around the goalie?
So we know that you cannot check the goalie. But can you make contact with the goalie using your stick?
For starters, when the goalie is playing the puck with their stick, you can attack or defend against their stick as you would against any other player’s stick.
Otherwise, so long as the puck is not covered by the goalie, you can continue to try to score a goal. This includes a “loose” puck in the crease when the goalie is attempting to cover it with their glove or other body parts.
But once the goalie has the puck covered, you should not poke at their equipment. Even if the referee has not yet blown the whistle, don’t poke the goalie with your stick.
For example, a goal will be disallowed if you push the goalie’s pad into the net while the puck is beneath it. The same rule would apply to if the goalie’s glove is pushed into the net by your stick or if you try to kick the puck into the net.
Not only can poking the goalie with your stick also injure them (especially on their catching glove), but you can get a minor penalty for slashing for doing so.
There is a motto in hockey that says, “play hard until you hear a whistle” but be cautious about poking at the goalie when they have the puck fully and safely covered.
Also, beware, because goalies don’t take kindly to being poked at. If you poke at their equipment, they may very well take a swing back at you with their stick – and can you blame them?
Rules exist to protect goalies from body checks. If you hit the opposing goalie, you will be penalized for it. Goalies also trust that you will avoid collisions with them, so do your best not to hit them – you would hope for the same if you were in net.
Goalies know that a high-speed contact game occurs around them, but they don’t expect to be checked.
If the goalie hasn’t covered a puck around the net, that puck is fair game for you to try to put in the net.
But once the goalie fully covers the puck in their equipment, you should not poke at them or push them into the net either. Hitting and poking at the goalie will result in a minor penalty.