If you ever want to create some excitement in a hockey game, just go near a goaltender. For some reason, all players have a tremendous need to come to the rescue of a goaltender who is checked or brushed by an opponent. The goaltender is the best protected player on the ice and is holding equipment which can do a lot of damage to other players, so he is likely the person least in the need of support, however, that is the nature of the game.


Rule 52b:

“A Major penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty shall be assessed any player who charges a goaltender while the goaltender is within his crease or who injures an opponent as a result of a charge.

Note: A goaltender is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area.  A penalty for interference (Minor or, at the discretion of the Referee, a Major penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty) or charging (Minor or, at the discretion of the Referee, a Major penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty) shall be called where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goaltender.  Likewise, Referees should be alert to penalize goaltenders for tripping, slashing, or spearing in the vicinity of the goal.” (Canadian Hockey Referee’s Case Book/Rule Combination, 2001, pg. 141).


Let’s get one thing straight: goalies, no matter how much players wish they were, are not “fair game”.  You cannot hit a goalie whether or not the goalie is in his crease or outside the crease going after a puck.  Granted, most referees will allow a little bumping with the goalie when the goalie is in the corner going after a puck, but if an attacking player hits that goalie down to the ice, then there is a good chance that this player will receive a penalty for “Goaltender Interference”. 

If a goalie is hit in the crease with a bit too much force, the referee will most often go with a Major plus a Game Misconduct as the rule states.  If the goalie is hit outside the crease then the referee will have an option to either call a minor penalty or a Major plus a Game Misconduct.  Referees will always consider the intent of the player checking the goalie as well as the force of the hit when assessing the penalty.  If the hit was solid, sending the goalie flying, then the referee is more likely to go with a Major plus Game Misconduct in order to keep control of the game.

When you look at it from a referee’s perspective, he really has no choice but to call this penalty or else  for the rest of the game the victimized club will be going after the other goalie. Furthermore, anyone who has ever seen a hockey game will notice how the players protect their goalies like they were made out of glass.  As soon as the goalie catches or falls on the puck, the goalie’s teammates form a wall around him and will not let an attacking player even come close.

When you really think about it, the goalie is wearing the most equipment out of any person on the ice.  He has thick pads that can stop 100+ mph shots, a chest pad that runs down his arms and can practically stop a speeding bullet, and a facemask and helmet that makes him look like he is getting ready for a Medieval Joust.  Finally his gloves are made with extra padding so that a shot doesn’t hurt his hands and his skates have more protection than players’ skates do. So why do players protect the most equipped player on the ice?

It’s the golden rule of hockey, “Protect your Goalie”. That is the way it has always been and it is safe to predict that it will stay that way forever. 

A referee gets very upset with a player who hits a goalie. It causes a chain reaction among players on the ice and can change the whole mood of a game. Consider the consequences of either calling or not calling a penalty on such a play. And while you are reading, keep in mind that a referee must take everything into consideration instantly and make a decision that he hopes is the correct one. If another player does hit a goalie, one of two things will happen.

1) If the referee does not call a penalty when the goalie gets hit.

a. The players on the goalie’s team will try to fight the player that just hit the goalie and this can lead to a potential brawl.  Not only on this stoppage but later on in the game when any player comes around the goalie again.

b. The team will try and retaliate by going after the other team’s goalie by either running him over or by constantly jabbing at him with their sticks.  This can also lead to headaches for the referee because this also causes a potential for a brawl.

c. The bottom line is that if the goalie is hit with enough force to deserve a penalty, and the referee does not call it, then this referee has just made it a tough game for himself to officiate.  Now he must deal with the teams trying to run each other’s goalie at every possible chance.

2) If the referee calls the penalty when the goalie gets hit.

a. He will gain the respect of both teams because now the teams know that they cannot run or hit the goalies without being assessed a penalty.  This will keep the players away from the goalies and make for a smoother flowing game.

b. The goalie will become the referee’s best friend for the remainder of the game, and sometimes his only friend.  You will often see referees and goalies talking on stoppages of play.  This is because the goalie is probably the only player on the ice who still likes the referee because he is out there protecting him.  Another reason why goalies and referees get along so well is that sometimes they both feel like they are alone with no friends within a 5-mile radius!

c. If the referee calls a penalty against one team but not the other team for doing the same rough tactics on the goalie then the referee will lose all the respect from both teams and may be in for a long rough game filled with many fights or scrums. Therefore, what is good for one goalie will be good for the other.


Don’t for a second think that referees are just out there to protect the goalies. Referees will only protect the goalies who do not antagonize opposing players by sticking or slashing them in the back of the legs while play is going on.  If a referee sees a goalie constantly trying to stir up the pot throughout the game, the next time a player slashes or bumps the goalie, there will likely be no call for the simple fact that the goalie got what he deserved. 

So, don’t get upset at the referee for letting a slash or bump go against the goalie who has been antagonizing the other team.  Remember to look at what your goalie has been doing before he received a slash. This is another one of those game management techniques that are learned from experience. Some times a referee simply has to look the other way.


The rules clearly protect goaltenders. Any player who uses his stick or body to physically contact or interfere or prevent the movement of a goaltender will receive a minor penalty for Goaltender Interference.

For decades, attacking players have been bumping goalies in an attempt to get then off balance so that it is easier to score on them, or to get the goalies concentrating on the players bumping him instead of on stopping the puck.  This along with players charging and hitting goalies is probably the number one incident that can turn a good, clean game into a game filled with fights and scrums.

Naturally, referees will look for players who bump into goalies or stand in their crease in an attempt to limit the goalie’s mobility to stop the puck.  These players will be assessed minor penalties for interfering with the goaltender because it calms the goalie down and it shows the teams that the referee will not allow these cheap tactics to try and score a goal.

The most common interference with a goaltender occurs when the goalie comes out of his crease in order to cut down the angle and give the shooter less net to look at or score on.  When the goalie ventures from the net the attacking players pounce on the opportunity to get in the goalie’s face and try to distract the goalie from his number one job of stopping the puck. 

You will see attacking players stick out their legs or use their sticks to clip the goalie’s legs, thus putting him off balance giving the shooter a better opportunity to score. When the goalie is out of his crease it is tougher for a referee to call a penalty for goaltender interference because the goalie may have moved into the path of the player and not vice versa.  So, how can a referee penalize a player for going where he was going and in essence a goaltender interfering with the player? 

It is a simple thing that referees look at in these situations.  Did the player try to avoid the goaltender at all costs?  If the player did try to avoid the goalie, but still made some contact, then there will most likely not be a penalty assessed. 

However, if the player kept going directly for the goalie and made contact with the goalie without trying to avoid him, then the referee’s hands are tied and he must call a penalty.  This is because if a goal is scored and the referee did not call a penalty, then the team scored on will cause havoc for the rest of the game by trying to interfere with the opposing team’s goalie.

The hardest part for a referee in this situation is to determine if the player made an adequate attempt to avoid making contact with the goalie.  Players, as they grow older, get to be very sneaky.  They make it look like they tried to avoid the goalie but in actual fact they still clipped or bumped the goalie on purpose.  Players will often try to jump out of the way but they don’t jump quite far enough so that a part of their body still makes contact with the goalie.

Goalies will argue about being interfered with as soon as they are bumped, but the referees are looking at the one key issue. Did the player making contact with the goalie try to avoid the goalie at all costs?

Another thing that referees have to deal with is looking at attacking players who are larger than the defensemen that are trying to clear them out of the front of the net. These forwards will often use the defenseman to hit their own goalie.  They will push the defenseman into his own goaltender, causing the goalie to fall or go off balance.  This is still interference because the intention of the player was to get the goalie off balance or impeder the movement of the goalie. Referees are thus left with the hard job of deciding if the attacking player meant to interfere with the goalie.  It is almost like they have to read the mind of the player, which isn’t always easy to do!


So much controversy occurs anytime a player of the team who has just scored is standing anywhere near the goal crease of the team scored upon.

Simply stated, if the puck goes into the crease first, the entire attacking team can crowd into the crease to try to direct the puck over the goal line. If one or more players are in the crease before the puck, and if, in the opinion of the referee, the position of the players may have interfered with the goaltender’s ability to stop the shot, the goal will be disallowed.

Therefore, the fact that a player has a skate in the crease is not enough for a goal to be called back. However, a player standing beside the goaltender inside the crease would be different. In fact, not only would the goal be called back, but the player in the crease would likely be given a penalty for goaltender interference.

The issue of players in the crease has been a huge topic in the NHL over the past few years, and is the main reason why they cut off the edges of the semi-circle (crease) in front of the net.  Below is a description of the differences between the NHL and Minor Hockey goal creases. The only difference, as you will see, is the width.


The next time you have a chance to watch an NHL game, look at the goal crease.  The crease extends 1 foot out along the goal line from each goal post and then it extends straight out towards the other end of the ice for 4 feet 6 inches.   The top of the crease is similar to the minor hockey crease in that they use a 6-foot radius to draw a rounded line at the outer edge.  The NHL crease is 8 feet wide (4 feet on each side of the centre of the net).


The Minor Hockey crease is similar to the NHL crease except that it is 12 feet wide (6 feet on each side of the centre of the net).  The Minor Hockey crease still uses a 6 foot radius from the centre of the net to make its dimensions.  Furthermore, for the purpose of the goal crease, the 2-inch dark lines along the border are considered part of the crease.


No goal will be allowed if a player of the team scoring a goal was standing in the crease before the puck entered the crease or the goal.  You would think that this is a fairly simple and self-explanatory rule, but it still causes various debates and arguments across the world of hockey on almost a daily basis.  

A referee generally must put up with an argument that a player was standing in the crease whenever there is a player even close to the crease.  The goalie is usually the first player to pose this argument, and granted sometimes they have a valid argument, but other times they just argue in the hopes that the referee will change his mind. This very rarely happens.


A referee will  disallow a goal if a player of the attacking team was standing in the crease of his own will (not pushed into the crease by a defending player) and this player impeded the goalie from making a save.  If a player has one skate in the crease and is using his stick or body to get in the way of the goalie’s movements then a Referee will most likely not allow the goal because once again the player was impeding the progress of the goalie.  Not only will the goal not be awarded, but also to add salt to the wound, the player interfering with the goalie may receive a penalty for his actions.

Secondly, if a player has both of his skates in the crease and is standing there when the puck enters the net, the Referee may disallow the goal even if the player did not impede the goalie from making a save. In this situation, the player is making it too obvious for the referee to allow the goal because he has both skates inside the crease and there is no defending player holding him in there.

Scoring in hockey has been diminishing over the past couple of decades and therefore a referee may not want to disallow a goal for a player with one skate in the crease who is not bothering the goalie in any manner.  The referee is more likely to disallow a goal if a player has both skates in the crease (who was not pushed into the crease by a defending player or who is not being held in the crease by a defending player) or who is impeding the goalie from his duties.

Another factor that a referee has to put up with is the fact that when a goal is scored with a player with one or two skates in the crease, the referee must first be able to see this situation, as there are usually other players obstructing his view, and the Referee must also make a judgment as to whether or not the attacking player went into the crease of his own will. Quite often the defending player will push the attacking player into the crease in the hope that the Referee will disallow the goal.


It takes a lot for a referee to disallow a goal. In minor hockey there is no instant video replay to back up the referee, therefore a decision must be made immediately. Whereas the referee must watch the puck at all times when it is around the net, unless there is an obvious case of a player being inside the crease, interfering with the goaltender, a goal scored will usually be allowed to stand.

If a referee does disallow a goal, there is no point in yelling at him. He certainly wouldn’t do it unless it was clearly justifiable, even if the fans didn’t see it his way.


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