What is the Hand Pass Rule in Ice Hockey?

The rule is that a player can bat a puck out of the air or slide it on the ground in their defensive end. However, if a hand pass is directed to a teammate in the neutral or offensive end, it isn’t allowed. If a player catches a puck, it needs to be dropped.

Passing is a very important part of hockey. It is fundamental to scoring the puck, moving it throughout the ice, and being a skilled passer is crucial if you want to be a great player.

While passing usually happens with a stick, there are situations where it happens with a player’s hand. But what is the hand pass rule in ice hockey, and are players allowed to do it? Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • A hand pass is when a player uses their hand to pass the puck in some way. It is legal to bat a puck out of the air or slide it across the ice in the defensive end with your hand, but directing the pass to a teammate in the neutral or offensive end is not allowed.
  • Players can bat down or slide a puck on the ground with their hand anywhere on the ice, but if the pass is directed to a teammate, it needs to take place in the defensive end. If not, play will be stopped.
  • Recently, the NHL made it possible to review goals scored from a hand pass in some instances, but not always.

What is a Hand Pass?

Before we look at the rules surrounding hand passes, let’s take a closer look at what they actually are. A hand pass in ice hockey is quite self-explanatory and is any sort of pass made by a player’s hand, not a hockey stick.

This could be batting the puck out of the air, or sliding it along the ice. However, keep in mind that if any player catches the puck, they are not permitted to throw it (whether to a teammate or not), and need to drop the puck immediately.

What Are the Rules Surrounding Hand Passes?

Each league may have their own specific rules, but for simplicity’s sake, and because it is the premier hockey league in the world, let’s take a closer look at the NHL rules for hand passes. The rule is included in the NHL rule book as rule 79.

The rule states that players are permitted to bat the puck with their hand or push it along the ice without the play being stopped. However, if the ref thinks the player directed this hand pass to a teammate (or it allowed his team to gain an advantage) then play can be stopped.

If there is a stoppage in play due to a hand pass, the ensuing face-off will take place at the nearest face-off spot to where the pass occurred. But if the offending team performed the hand pass in their offensive zone, the face-off will take place in the neutral zone instead.

However, things change a little when this hand pass occurs in the defensive zone. The rules state that play will not be stopped for any hand pass by players in their own defensive end.

As mentioned earlier, it is against the rules to close your hands around the puck and throw it, and this is covered in rule 67 of the NHL rule book. Wherever a player closes their hand on the puck, play will be stopped and the player handling the puck with their hands will be penalized.

Are Goals Scored from a Hand Pass Reviewable?

The answer to this question used to be no, but was changed in recent years. In 2020, the NHL finally made it legal to review goals that were believed to have been scored as a result of a hand pass in the offensive end of the ice (source).

One major catalyst of this was a hand pass that led to a goal that was missed in the 2019 Western Conference Finals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks. The NHL acted quickly to ensure something like this wouldn’t happen again.

However, if the hand pass occurred in a team’s defensive or neutral zones, and then a goal is ultimately scored, that is not reviewable. It needs to be an illegal hand pass that occurs inside the offensive zone to lead to a review.

Final Thoughts

While hand passes are uncommon, they do occur from time to time in a game and it’s good to know how they are handled. I hope that this guide helped you not only learn more about hand passes in general, but the rules surrounding them in the NHL.

Do you think the rules surrounding hand passes in the NHL are good as is, or do you think there are some changes that could be made? Let me know in a comment below.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email: kale@hockeyhow.com

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