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In the sport of hockey, you might think that skates are only used for skating on the ice. But footwork with the puck does occasionally come into play when you’re on the ice. What rules surround kicking the puck? Can you kick the puck in hockey? Can you pass the puck with your feet? Can you kick the puck into the net to score a goal? This article will explore all the dos and don’ts of kicking the puck in hockey.
Being able to handle the puck when it’s in and around your feet is an underrated skill in hockey. You can kick the puck to your stick, to your teammates, and around the ice. You cannot, however, kick the puck into the net to score a goal. The puck can deflect off your skate for a goal, but only so long as your foot does not move in a kicking motion.
When is it okay to kick the puck in hockey?
You can kick the puck in hockey under any circumstance except to score a goal.
This means you can pass the puck with your skate to a teammate who scores with their stick.
But you cannot kick the puck directly into the net with a distinct kicking motion. All other puck kicking plays are considered legal in hockey.
You can retrieve the puck when it is in your skates. You can also receive passes with your skates and kick pass it to teammates if that play is to your advantage.
You can block shots with a kicking motion too.
But also, do not kick opponents or teammates on the ice – accidentally or deliberately. Kicking is a serious match penalty if you deliberately injure someone with your skate.
Why can’t you kick the puck to score a goal?
The puck can go in the net off your skate, but it will not count if your skate knocks the puck in with a kicking motion.
Players can score if their foot moves to angle the puck into the net, but it must “guide” or “direct” the puck without a distinct kicking motion.
This rule was only introduced in 1996. Before then, even non-kicking motion skate goals weren’t considered legal.
The new distinction between “kicking” and “angling” the puck into the net can be a gray area that comes to down to the discretion of a referee’s judgement during the game.
If players around the net were to be taking strong kicks at the puck in the crease, the goalie and other players would face a greater risk of injury.
When and how to kick the puck to your advantage
To some hockey players, playing the puck with their skates will seem like a foreign idea. But feeling comfortable with doing so can be a skill that you use to your advantage during a game.
It is not uncommon to find the puck in your feet at some point during most games. Don’t panic.
When the puck is in your skates, try to kick it up to your stick. Or, if you’re in a dangerous defensive position near your net, kick the puck away from the net or into the corner or to a team-mates open blade.
Confidence in your footwork with the puck can also come in handy when you’re receiving passes. If you’re skating in stride and a pass comes in a bit behind you, you can stick your skate back out to receive the puck -- deflecting it forward onto your stick.
You can kick the puck up to your stick if you receive a pass on the inside of your skate blade. If you’re receiving it on your outer edge, try to angle it up to your stick or at least use it to halt the puck’s motion.
Alternatively, with your stick, you can swat a pass that is trailing behind you up into your skates and then kick it up to your stick all while maintaining your forward motion. This is a somewhat tricky manoeuvre that will work only some of the time even for the most skilled of players.
When you’ve mastered footwork with the puck
Highlight reel goals can feature impressive moves where players deliberately work with the puck in their skates.
Players can draw the puck behind them with their stick and push it to their opposite side back foot. With that foot, they can then kick the puck back up to their stick.
Only some of the best puck handlers can pull off these moves though. Alexander Ovechkin is known for occasionally mixing this move into his repertoire.
Putting the puck into your skates can disorient defenders and goaltenders alike. Defensemen find it difficult to defend it because the puck is out of their reach.
Former NHLer sniper Pavel Bure was also famous for a goal where he pushed the puck into his skates and quickly kicked it up to his stick while skating at a high speed.
But be careful about using this type of deke. Make sure you know what you’re doing if you’re deliberately putting the puck into your skates – not everyone is a Bure or Ovechkin.
You will often even see NHL players warming up prior to their games by kicking around a soccer ball. Though it is effective as a general athletic warmup, this can also get players ready for precision plays with their feet – like edgework and playing the puck with their skates.
Able footwork with the puck is a unique skill that not all hockey players possess. While you cannot kick the puck to score a goal, kicking and moving the puck with your feet can be an important part of playing hockey.
You will occasionally find the puck in your feet or face situations when using your skates is the most effective way to play the puck.
You can kick the puck in all game situations except for directly kicking it into the net with a distinct kicking motion.
If you do so and the referee sees it will NOT be awarded as a goal.