Can You Catch The Puck In Hockey? (Handling and Hand Pass Rule)


When it comes to hand-handling the puck, there are certain rules and regulations in ice hockey mentioned in the official NHL rulebook.

As a general rule, The NHL player cannot catch the puck with a closed hand under any situation. The keyword here is “closed hand.” If the player catches the puck with an open hand and drops it immediately down to the ice, the play will not be stopped.

What is The Hand Pass Rule? 

According to the 79.1 hand pass rule in the NHL rulebook, a player is allowed to “beat” the puck while it is in mid-air with their hand, but they are not allowed to pass it to any teammate.

Note that there is a difference between “catching” and “batting” the puck. Catching refers to the player carrying the puck, closing their hand on it, and using it to put the opposing team at a disadvantage. Batting refers to stopping the puck while it is in the air and redirecting it to the ice.

Is a hand pass a penalty in hockey?

If any player violates the hand pass rule, the play is immediately stopped, and a minor penalty is awarded to the offending team member. 

The player will have to sit for a specified period of time in the “penalty box”, which gives a temporary advantage to the opposing team for having an extra member in their team.

A penalty shot is rewarded to the opposing team in case any player from the offending team, other than the goaltender, catches, holds, picks up, or closes his hand on the puck during the play.

What is The Handling Puck Rule?

The 67.1 Handling Puck Rule is the same as the Hand Pass rule – the player is not allowed to close their hands on the puck, but there is one difference. They are allowed to bat the puck and pass it to a teammate while they are in the defensive zone.

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Violation of The Handling Puck Rule

In case the player bats and passes the puck to a teammate in the offensive or neutral zones, the play is immediately stopped, and a face-off is conducted.

How Long Can a Player Hold The Puck If They Catch It?

There’s no “permitted” duration of time for them to hold the puck, The player has to drop the puck down as soon as possible if they end up catching it.

Some people say that holding the puck for three seconds is allowed, but this is a misconception.

Examples of Hand Passes in the NHL

We can cite the example of the match between San Jose and St. Louis in the Stanley cup playoffs. 

In the match, Timo Meier batted the puck with his hand while it was in mid-air and passed it to his team member.

This is an example of an illegal hand pass since it took place in the offensive zone. Only hand passes in the defensive zone are considered valid.

Is there a Between the NHL and Lower League in Hand Pass Rules?

While in the NHL, hitting the ball by hand to a teammate is valid in the defensive zone, in the lower league this is considered a violation of the hand-passing rule and results in a minor penalty.

Can The Goaltender Catch the Puck?

As a general rule, Any team member except the goaltender is allowed to catch the puck. However, the goaltender is required to throw the puck onto the opponent’s team.

In case the goaltender deliberately holds the puck for over 3 seconds, a minor penalty is awarded for causing an unnecessary delay in the play. Additionally, if the goaltender deliberately drops the puck towards the goal net, it is also considered a violation, and a minor penalty may be awarded.

Are Goals Scored In The NHL Through Hand-Passes Reviewable?

Hand passes that result directly in a goal are reviewable in the NHL. However, hand passes that don’t cause a goal but merely cause a disadvantage to the opposing team are not reviewable.

This is considered a controversial rule since in case the referee misses out on a hand pass and it is later on led to a goal, the goal will be considered valid even if the hand pass was illegal.

Why Is Catching the Puck Not Allowed?

The main reason why catching or hand-handling the puck in the offensive or neutral zone isn’t allowed is that it provides the offending team with an overpowering advantage, as they can control the puck in any way they want. 

All of these rules come down to balancing the control and power both teams have in terms of scoring a goal.

Why Is Catching the Puck Allowed In the Defensive Zone?

In the defensive zone, catching the puck doesn’t necessarily cause an overpowered advantage to the team as it still needs to make an effort to reach the offensive zone and be able to score a goal.

Different Situations Of Catching the Puck

Whether a penalty should be awarded on hand-handling the puck or not varies from situation to situation. Below are some examples:

  1. If the puck is batted with the hand:  if it hits the stick of the same player who was hand-batting the puck, and it results in a goal, it still counts as a violation. The player wasn’t allowed to hand-bat the puck in the first place.
  2. If the puck was initially in the defensive zone: while passing it to a team member, it ended up getting into the other zones, it is no longer permissible to hand-handle it.
  3.  Batting the puck with a hand toward the goal: A goal is not considered valid if the attacking member directly bats the puck with his hand towards the goal net. However, if the puck didn’t touch the player’s hand but deflected off their glove, and it resulted in a goal, the goal shall be considered valid.
  4. Skating with the puck in hand: If you skat with a buck in your hand in order to gain a territorial advantage over the opposing team, this will result in a minor penalty.
  5. If the puck is batted by the hand: If it is deflected off a team member’s body towards an opposing team member, the play will not be stopped. A violation will be considered only if the team member caught the puck.

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