Ice Hockey: Can You Pick Up Goalie's Stick or Is it a Penalty?


There is often a flurry of activity around the goal crease in ice hockey. The bodies and sticks of several players are usually present when a loose puck is available in this area. This heavy traffic sometimes leads to the goaltender dropping or breaking his stick. There are specific things players and goalies can do in these situations that do not result in a two-minute minor penalty.

National Hockey League Rules

National Hockey League rules indicate that a goaltender who has dropped his stick cannot have his teammate return the stick to him by sliding or throwing it. This results in a two-minute minor penalty to the player who handed the stick to the goaltender. The stick can only be returned to him by picking it up and handing it to him. A goaltender who has broken his stick can continue to play with it until the play stops. During play, a teammate can also hand him a new stick. A goaltender often needs his stick to make critical saves so one of his teammates will often hand him a regular player's stick until a play stoppage.

USA Hockey Rules

The governing body of hockey in the United States, USA Hockey, also has a rule pertaining to player's picking up goaltender's sticks. This rule is a subsection of the rule explaining that a goaltender who uses a stick with a blade that is less than 2 inches or more than 3 1/2 inches wide will receive a two-minute minor penalty. If a teammate is carrying a stick to his goaltender and makes a play with the puck, he receives a two-minute minor penalty. It is legal for a player to hand the stick to his goaltender if the puck has not been played. If the puck hits the player unintentionally it does not count as a puck play.

IIHF Rules

The International Ice Hockey Federation is the governing body of major international hockey tournaments such as the World Under-20 Championships and the Winter Olympics. The IIHF also states that a player who is carrying a new goal stick to his goaltender or returning the current one to his possession cannot play the puck while holding it. A two-minute penalty is assessed to the player who violates this rule. Goaltenders can play with broken sticks, but skaters cannot. Players on the bench cannot throw a goaltender a new stick either.

Additional Information

The NHL and IIHF rules differ in goaltender's retrieval of a new stick. The IIHF allows the goaltender to skate to the bench during play to receive a new stick. If he goes to the bench for a new stick during a stoppage, his team is assessed a two-minute minor penalty. The National Hockey League rules state that the only way for a goaltender to receive a new stick during play is to have it brought to him by a teammate. Generally, it is legal to pick up your goaltender's stick as long as you do not play the puck while holding it.