Are players allowed to hit the goalie in hockey? (Answered!)

can you hit hockey goalie

Hockey goalies often find themselves outside their crease and behind their net in order to play the puck. So, can a player who’s trying to steal the puck hit the goalie in order to take it?

In hockey, players aren’t allowed to hit the goalie under any circumstances. Whether inside or outside their crease, it is always against the rules of hockey to purposely initiate physical contact with a goalie. Sometimes during a game, players will accidentally bump into goalies, in these cases it’s up to the referees to determine if the contact warrants a penalty or not.

The fact of the matter is, goalies are protected due to their importance to the game of hockey. If players were able to hit goalies, we would see a dramatic increase in injuries to goalies. This would lead to a long list of issues, including the possibility of games not being able to be finished.

There’s your answer. If you’re interested, let’s take a more in-depth look at the topic.

Why don’t you hit the goalie in hockey?

If goalies were eligible to be hit, they wouldn’t be able to properly perform their job on the ice, which is to stop pucks. Not only would goalies now have to think about stopping the puck, which is already difficult enough in and of itself. But they would also have to think about if they are going to get hit or not.

Something to keep in mind, goalies are more prone to injury after receiving a hit than any other position, this is because goalie is a stationary position.

When players are hit, they are usually in motion, which takes away from the impact of the hit. If a player came speeding down the ice at full speed and ran into a goalie who is standing still, they would take far more force and likely face several injuries.

Can a goaltender get hit if he is out of the net?

Often times during hockey games you will see the goalie come out of his net, leaving the blue paint known as the crease to play the puck. When a goalie does this, are players then allowed to make contact with them?

It does not matter where the goalie is on the ice, goalies are off-limits to be hit at all times. Often times you will see goalies use this to their advantage and use their body to block opposing players from the puck.

Sometimes, goalies get into positions behind their net where they are forced to hold the puck against the board as opposing defenders approach. In this sort of situation, players are allowed to use their sticks in an attempt to take the puck away, but are still not allowed to forcefully shove the goalie.

Penalization for hitting the goalie in hockey

If leagues didn’t penalize players for hitting goalies, it would happen all the time. This is why the goaltender interference penalty was introduced.

In an attempt to prevent goalies from being hit every game, leagues around the world will hand out a goaltender interference penalty to players as the result of purposefully coming into physical contact with an opposing goalie. This is a 2-minute minor penalty.

What is goaltender interference?

goaltender interference
Image courtesy of ArtBrom

Going by the NHL rule book:

A player will be given a 2-minute goaltender interference penalty if they create intentional contact with the goalie. It does not matter if the goalie is inside his crease or not.

Contact made inside the crease

If a goal is scored as the result of an opposing player initiating contact with the goalie inside the crease, the goal will be disallowed.

Also, if the goalie initiates contact with an opposing player while attempting to establish his position and the player fails to give ground to the goalie, resulting in the goalie losing his or her ability to defend the goal, the goal will be disallowed.

In both of these cases, the player will be given a 2-minute minor penalty.

Contact made outside the crease

If an opposing player purposely comes into physical contact with a goalie while they are out of their crease and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed

Whenever the goalie is out of their crease they are still protected, should a player make unnecessary contact with the goalie outside their crease the player will receive a 2-minute minor penalty.

Incidental contact between a goalie and a player is allowed, so long as the player makes a reasonable attempt to avoid physical contact with the goalie.

Goaltender interference controversy in the NHL

Goaltender interference is so controversial because the rule itself really comes down to the referee’s and video judges discretion. There is much room left for interpretation.

The biggest issue with goaltender interference in the NHL is that there simply is very little consistency with what is called.

You will often see similar events happen in different games on the same night where a goalie is bumped into before a goal is scored, depending on the officiating crew, one would be called a good goal and the other would be disallowed, despite both being very similar situations. There is too much room for human error with the call.

Watch this video to learn more about the ongoing goaltender interference controversy going on in the NHL.

Goalie interference issue turning into a nightmare for NHL

Can the goalie in hockey hit a player?

We’ve established that players are not allowed to hit goalies, but what about goalies? Is it legal for goalies to hit players?

In hockey, goalies are allowed to hit players so long as they follow the rules of hitting which means, no charging and no interference. So, as long as the player has the puck, they are eligible to be hit by everyone, including the goalie.

One of my favorite goalie hits of all time is when Tim Thomas hit Henrik Sedin in front of his net during the Stanley Cup finals. Check it out.

Tim Thomas drills Henrik Sedin 6/6/11 1080p HD

Unwritten rules of hitting the goalie

Now, we know there are official rules in place that will protect the goalies from being hit. Well, on top of those official rules comes one unwritten rule.

Don’t touch our goalie or you’ll be sorry

Often times you’ll see crowds form around the net after a goalie freezes the puck, sometimes players on the opposing team will get a little too excited and start hacking away at the puck underneath the goalies glove in an attempt to break it loose.

Players hate this. If you take too many liberties with someone’s goalie, it’s only a matter of time until you receive a few crosschecks to the back or punches to the face.

Goalies are the most protected position on the ice by both the officials and their teammates.  See for yourself:

NHL: Protecting The Goalie Part 4


You don’t touch the goalie. It’s the oldest rule in the book for a reason. As much as you may want to run one everyone now and then, you should avoid doing it unless you are prepared to sit in the penalty box for 2 minutes.