The crease in hockey is an incredibly important part of the ice rink, especially if you’re a goalie. The rules of the hockey crease have changed over the years, so it’s important to know what it is and what you can and can’t do in the crease.
What is the crease in hockey?
The hockey crease is the shaded (usually blue) semi-circle area in front of each goal. The crease is the home of the goalie — including where they are most likely going to be when attempting to stop goals.
While goalies are allowed to come out of their goal for many reasons, they like to stay in their crease whenever they can.
You will usually find a hockey crease filled in with blue paint and outlined with red paint. But it does extend vertically as well.
Dimensions of the hockey crease
The hockey crease is:
- 6 feet wide.
- 4 feet tall (at the highest point).
The crease includes the semi-circle and crease lines, and extends vertically to the top of the goal frame.
What can (and can’t) you do in the crease?
If you are not the goalie, there is not much you can do in the crease. I have been asked “how long can you stay in the crease before you get in trouble?” and the answer is pretty much “never.” Although you will occasionally find yourself pushed into the crease or briefly skating through it, there is never a reason you should have your feet in the crease.
You are more likely to hurt the goalie if you are in the crease, especially as an offensive player, and the defense will probably start pushing you out of the area. Many hockey fights start because someone had their foot in the crease (because defense is serious about defending their own goalie).
How long can you stand in the hockey crease as a player?
No time at all. If you are pushed or fall into the crease, you should work hard to get back out as soon as you can. You are not allowed to be in the crease except for a few minor exceptions, and it can result in a penalty or disallowed goal.
When *can* you stand in the crease?
Technically you can be in the crease if the “puck has preceded the player(s) into the goal crease or the goalkeeper is out of the goal crease area,” according to USA Hockey Rule 625.
If you are pushed or otherwise moved into the crease by the opposing team and while you are there, your team scores, the referee will use their judgment and the goal may count. But this all depends on what the push looked like and if you made an effort to get out of the crease in a timely manner.
All this means is that your goal may count if you score in these circumstances — you should still not make a habit of standing in the crease.
The main penalty you can be given in relation to the hockey crease is called Interference, a minor penalty in adult USA Hockey leagues. Interference is when a player uses their body to impede the progress of an opponent and makes no effort to play the puck.
Interference in the crease means that you impeded the goalie from doing their job. Rule 625 (a)(8) says “Any player who makes physical contact, using their stick or body, in a manner that interferes with the movement of the goalkeeper, unless otherwise specified in the rules,” is considered Interference.
According to USA Hockey, a face off shall occur “any time an attacking player stands, holds their stick, or skates through the goal crease provided the puck is in the attacking zone, the attacking team has possession of the puck, and the goalkeeper is in contact with the crease.”
If an offensive player is in the crease, a goal may not be scored — unless the puck entered the crease before the player, or if the goalie is out of the crease area.
However, if the offensive player was pushed into the crease by a defensive player, play will continue and any goals will be allowed.
Interference face-off locations
Face-offs for goalie interference will be at the nearest neutral zone face-off spot when “any player who makes physical contact, using their stick or body, in a manner that interferes with the movement of the goalkeeper, unless otherwise specified in the rules,” according to USA Hockey.
The important of the crease in hockey
The hockey crease is a small but important area on the ice. Learning the rules and penalties of the crease will help you learn where you can and can’t be when you are on offense or defense.
Hockey is a physical game, but you still need to have respect for other players — especially the goalies on the ice — and learning what you can and can’t do in the crease is a good start to that.