The Ultimate Guide to What is the Hand Pass Rule in Hockey?

What is the Hand Pass Rule in Hockey

Ice hockey players do many types of passes during the game, but there is one pass that doesn’t require a stick to pass the puck, and that is – Hand Pass. Using a hand to play with a puck is usually illegal, normally resulting in a stoppage of play and face-off. However, the outcome of the result depends on the use of hands and where the players are in the ice arena. So, what exactly is the hand pass in hockey? Is it legal or illegal?

A player can catch or hit the puck, but as soon as they hold it, they should have to immediately place it on the ice or quickly let it go. They cannot skate with the puck or force it in any direction. A hand pass is only allowed in the defensive zone, while it is illegal to do a hand pass in the neutral and offensive zone. Defensive players can hit, catch or stop the puck in the air without penalty.

To find the answers to these questions, let’s get into the details of the hand-pass Rule in the NHL.

Hand Pass Rule in NHL

See the Rule below of hand passes from the Rule Book of NHL.

Rule 67.1 – Puck Handling

A player shall be allowed to ‘bat, catch or stop’ the puck in the air with his hands or push it along the ice, and a play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of hockey officials, he has intentionally directed the puck towards his teammate or allowed his team to get an advantage in other zones, neutral and offensive, then, in this case, the play shall be stopped and again a face-off.

A player shall be allowed to catch or hit the puck out of the air, but the puck should be dropped as soon as the player can. In case a player catches the puck and either skate with it or pushes it towards his teammate to gain a territorial advantage over the opponent team, then he will be assessed with a penalty under Rule 67 of puck handling in the NHL Book.

Rule 79.1 – Hand Pass

A player shall be permitted to do a hand pass to hit or ‘bat’ the puck in the air with his hands or throw or push it along the ice with the use of hands, and a play shall not be stopped unless in the opinion of hockey officials, either he has directed the puck to his teammate other than the defensive zone.

Rule 79.2 – Defensive Zone

“A game shall not be stopped if a player does a hand pass in his team’s defensive zone. When a player touches the puck location, either receiving or making the hand-pass, it shall specify the zone it is in.”

Rule 79.3 – Face-off Location

“The face-off location shall be in the nearest region where the violation has occurred unless it gives the non-offensive team a territorial advantage. When there is a hand pass infraction, the face-off shall be in the nearest spot where the offence occurred, making it hard for the offending team.”

Hand Pass – Legal or Illegal?

The case of legal and illegal depends on the place/zone where the hand pass happens and who receives the hand pass puck. It is legal under only one condition when the player is in his defensive zone, and the player to whom he passes the puck should also be in the same zone. 

Hand pass becomes illegal other than in the defensive zone. When an illegal hand pass happens, the play immediately should be whistled down on the referee’s notice. There should be no penalty on a player as long as the hand pass player has taken no deliberate advantage to his team, but the right call would be there for stoppage of play and face-off.

No hand pass is legal in the neutral and offensive zone because using the hand to pass the puck is more accurate than using the stick. And this would lead the team to good scoring, as happened back in the 2019 Stanley Cup between San Jose Sharks and St Louis Blues. The San Jose player used a hand pass to push the puck to his teammate, leading them to win the match.

How long can you hold the puck?

No player can hold the puck for too long, not even one to two seconds. When a player catches or hits the puck, he has to drop it immediately or place it on the ice. 

There is no permission for a player to hold or skate with the puck. The puck must be dropped on ice quickly in no time. If a player holds onto the puck even for 2 to 3 seconds, this can alter how the game is played because a player can skate the ice length in 2 to 3 seconds. And holding onto the puck for 2 or 3 seconds can bring the game to their advantage. 

The rule is that if a player holds onto the puck for long and skates or pushes it to get a regional advantage, he will be called for a slight penalty for ‘closing his hand on the puck’.

Are hand-pass goals reviewable?

No hand-passed goals were reviewable till the 2019-20 season. After the 2019 season, some hand-passed goals are reviewable.

This change of Rule is all thanks to game three between St. Louis and San Jose back in the 2019 season. Now, any goal that is caused by a hand pass in the offensive is reviewable by the video. While the goals caused by hand passes in the neutral zone are not reviewable. 

If game 3 of the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues could have been reviewed, then it is 100% guaranteed that the play would be called back.

Can a goalie do a hand pass?

According to the NHL Rule book,

“A goaltender shall receive a minor penalty when he throws a puck on the opposing team’s net, depending on two situations. If a goalie forwards the puck where the opponent’s player takes it, the referee shall allow the play and if a non-offending team scores a goal, the goal shall be allowed, and no penalty shall be imposed. If there is no goal by the non-offending team, the game shall be stopped, and a minor penalty shall be called on a goaltender.”

Frequently Asked Question

Why is the hand pass of the puck allowed in the defensive zone?

A hand pass is allowed in the defensive zone decreed by the NHL. The goal-scoring opportunity in the defensive zone is challenging to create. On the other hand, if a hand pass is allowed in the offensive area, then the team will promptly be at an advantage by taking a scoring chance.


So, yes, a hand pass is permitted in the NHL if it happens based on the rules of the NHL. Except in the defensive zone, hand pass is not allowed to push, catch or skate the puck because then the game will not be fair with the other team; instead, it will create controversies or trouble. No hand pass is allowed in other cases, nor can you hold onto it for even a few seconds.   

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