What Is Hand Pass In Ice Hockey? (NHL Hand Pass)

What Is A Hand Pass In Ice Hockey? NHL Hand Pass

There are different types of passes and passing techniques in ice hockey. From the backhand pass, no-look pass, drop pass, cross-ice pass and more. But of all the passing techniques, the most controversial is the hand pass. So what is a hand pass in ice hockey?

Hand Pass In Ice Hockey

Hand Pass In Ice Hockey

A hand pass in ice hockey is a situation when a player uses his hand to hit the puck to a teammate while it is in the air. Hand passes in ice hockey are legal, however, they can also be counted as a violation if a player hits the puck to a teammate who is not in the defensive zone. 

If a player uses his hand to pass the puck to a teammate who is anywhere else but in the defensive zone (neutral or offensive zone), a game stoppage is called

Also, in ice hockey, players are allowed to stop/catch the puck with their hands, but they must drop the puck onto the ice immediately. Players are not allowed to hold, throw or toss the puck in any direction after catching it. 

Rules Of Hand Pass 

Rules Of Hand Pass In Ice Hockey

The rules of hand pass in ice hockey state that players can use their hands to hit the puck in any direction without a game stoppage. However, if the referee decides that the puck is deliberately hit towards a teammate that is anywhere but in their own defensive zone, the whistle will be blown for a  game stoppage and a playoff is taken (Rule 67.1)

Another hand pass rule states that if a player uses his hand to catch the puck, he must immediately drop it onto the ice. If he proceeds to move with the puck in his hand, he will be assessed a penalty for “closing his hands on the puck” (Rule 79.1).

Penalty For Illegal Hand Pass 

If a player commits a hand pass in the neutral zone or offensive zone, the game is stopped and a playoff is called at the nearest playoff spot to where the hand pass occurred.

When a hand pass violation has occurred, the ensuing face-off shall take place at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the offense occurred, unless the offending team gains a territorial advantage, then the face-off shall be at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the stoppage of play occurred, unless otherwise covered in the rules.

When a hand pass violation occurs by a team in their attacking zone, the ensuing face-off shall be conducted at one of the face-off spots outside the defending team’s blue line in the neutral zone.

NHL Rule 79.3

However, if an illegal hand pass in the offensive zone is not seen by the referee but eventually leads to a goal, it can be challenged by the coach of the opposing team. If the offending team is found to have made an illegal hand pass, the goal will be revoked.

In addition, the penalty for not dropping the puck immediately after catching or tossing the puck in any direction after catching it is a two-minute minor penalty.

How Long Can A Player Hold The Puck After Catching It?

How Long Can A Player Hold The Puck

Players are not allowed to hold the puck for even a second after catching it. They are made to drop the puck immediately after they catch it. However, the rule is a bit different for goalies. 

Goalies are allowed to hold the puck in their hands for up to three seconds after catching it. The only time they are allowed to hold it for a longer period is if they are being checked. 

A goalkeeper who holds the puck with his hands for longer than three seconds shall be given a minor penalty unless he is actually being checked by an opponent. The object of this entire rule is to keep the puck in play continuously and any action taken by the goalkeeper which causes an unnecessary stoppage must be penalized without warning

NHL Rulebook

Scenarios Of Hand Pass In The NHL

Scenarios Of Hand Pass In The NHL

There are two scenarios of hand passes in the NHL. The first one is in a recent game between the Bruins and Panthers, and another between the Blues and Sharks.  

Boston Bruins VS Florida Panthers

During a match-up between the Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins, a hand pass was made that led to the cancellation of a goal. The scores were tied 2-2 and the Bruins advanced to score the third goal putting them one point ahead of the Panthers (3-2). 

After the goal, the coach of the Panthers made a challenge against the goal, because of an illegal hand pass. The handpass was made by Jake DeBrusk who hit the puck with the tip of his finger while he was hammered to the ground by a Panther defenseman, Gustav Forsling. 

When he hit the puck on the ice with his hand, it made the puck move slightly enough for his teammate, Patrice Bergeron-Cleary to collect the puck. 

Eventually, the referees concluded that the goal was invalid due to the hand pass that occurred in the offensive zone.

St Louis Blues VS San Jose Sharks 

Game 3 between the Blues and the Sharks in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs saw a very controversial hand pass that led the Sharks to win the series.

During overtime, the Sharks scored a goal. Timo Meier was attacking in the offensive zone when a fell to his knees. While the puck was in the air, he used his hands to hit the puck which was received by his teammate before it was passed to Erik Karlsson who then scored a goal.  

When A Goal Is Scored Due To A Hand Pass, Can It Be Reviewed?

After the incident between the Sharks and the Blues, the NHL decided to make hand passes in the offensive zones reviewable. This means that if a hand pass takes place in the offensive zone or your team’s defensive zone, it can be reviewed by looking at the video footage

That is what happened between the Bruins and Panthers as the hand pass was reviewed by video until a conclusion was set. And in the case of the Bruins, their goal was annulled. 

However, if the hand pass takes place in the neutral zone and is missed by the referee, then it is not legible for review. 

Related Post: How Many Timeouts Are In Ice Hockey?


You should have a better understanding of hand passes in ice hockey as well as what they mean and when they are considered legal or illegal. So next time you are watching an ice hockey game and you see a player touching the puck with his hands, you know when it is a legal or illegal hand pass. 

Thanks for reading.

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