What Is the Purpose of the Goalie Crease in Hockey?

Posted on February 24, 2024 by Dan Kent
Goalie Crease Explanation

If you're new to hockey, you may be wondering what the multitude of lines are on the ice. We have the red line, the blue lines, the trapezoid behind the nets, and even the referee's crease, which is located by the penalty box.

In this article, we will be going over the lines and blue circles in front of the goal, often referred to as the crease.

What is the crease in hockey?

In hockey, the crease is a designated area on the ice where the goaltender can cover or freeze the puck to stop play. It is outlined in a semicircle blue paint in front of the net, providing a reference point for goaltenders to help them with positioning and angle coverage while making saves. 

This space serves a few essential functions for goalies and their teammates. In this article, we'll go over the benefits and rules of the goalie crease in-depth.

When playing within the crease, the goaltender has several advantages. Lets go over them.

Goaltenders cannot be touched inside the crease

The crease is designed to provide safety and protection for goaltenders as they work to stop pucks from going into the net.

The crease is considered a protected area for the goalie, where opposing players cannot make physical contact or inhibit their movements. Keep in mind, however, that they still will not allow you to body-check a goaltender outside the crease.

They may just not give the benefit of the doubt to the goalie in the case of incidental contact if they're outside the crease.

The crease ensures that opposing players cannot interfere with the goalie, either by entering the crease or making contact with them within it, without risking a penalty. This way, the goalie can focus on stopping the puck rather than avoiding contact.

The crease helps a goaltender with their angles and proper positioning

The crease marks the ideal spot for the goalie to defend the net, making it easier for them to anticipate and react to shots. The crease also assists the goaltender in achieving proper positioning due to its visual boundaries. 

With this guide, the goalie can accurately judge their distance from the net and the angle at which they're covering the net, making it easier to save an oncoming shot on the net.

The goalie can freeze the puck in the crease

Within the crease, the goaltender can freeze the puck, momentarily stopping the play and potentially preventing any scoring opportunities for the opposing team.

The referees will allow a goaltender to freeze the puck outside the crease to a degree. However, it has to be somewhat close, or else the goalie could take a delay of game penalty.

Other rules around the crease for goalies

In addition to its primary purpose of providing a safe zone for goalies to operate in and freeze the puck, the crease in hockey has other rules surrounding it.

Crease violations

A player from the attacking team is permitted to enter the crease, whether it be on the forecheck or during offensive zone pressure. However, suppose they interfere with the goalie in any way.

In that case, the benefit of the doubt will almost always be given to the goalie in this situation, and a goal that is scored when there is contact made will almost always be overturned.

The only situation where this wouldn't be the case is if a goalie's teammate pushed an opponent into the crease.

Before the controversial Stanley Cup Finals game-winning goal being scored by the Dallas Stars Brett Hull in 1999, it used to be illegal to enter the crease at all.

However, with Hull's skate being in the crease as the goal was scored and it still being counted, the NHL would soon after get rid of the rule that many fans and general managers didn't like anyways.

Here is a video of the goal below.

Goaltender interference

Any contact with the goaltender while in the crease by an opposing player can lead to a penalty for goalie interference. The contact must be deemed intentional or avoidable for the penalty to be assessed.

Please don't confuse this with what I've talked about above. In that situation, I was talking about a goal being scored.

Here, I'm saying that you've made contact with the goalie and have been assessed a two-minute minor penalty. It doesn't necessarily have to be due to a goal going in.

Skating through the crease

This wasn't always the rule. However, the NHL now allows you to skate through the crease or enter the crease in pursuit of a puck.

However, you cannot obstruct the goalie physically when making a save. Two situations can come of this. For one, a goal is scored, and the ref either calls it off or is taken away via a coach's challenge.

Secondly, you could be assessed a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference.

These additional rules ensure that the crease remains a protected zone for goaltenders and that they can do their job efficiently. If these rules weren't in place, it would put the safety of a goaltender at risk.

And considering the NHL only allows two goalies to be dressed, there isn't much room for error.

The player covering the puck in the goal crease

This is a rule that many new fans don't understand. However, it is a rule that does get called the odd time, and it's essential to know how it works.

Suppose a teammate of the goaltender ends up covering the puck in any way inside the crease. In that case, an automatic penalty shot will be assessed.

Many fans believe the rule to be simply if a player covers the puck with their hand. However, the rule, word for word, goes as follows:

No defending player, except the goalkeeper, will be permitted to fall on the puck, hold the puck, pick up the puck, or gather the puck into the body or hands when the puck is within the goal crease. For infringement of this rule, play shall immediately be stopped and a Penalty shot shall be ordered against the offending team.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

Looking for more hockey content? Have a look at these articles