What Is A Foul In Hockey? [Expert Guide!]

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If you follow ice hockey at all, you’ve probably heard of the ‘foul language’ that gets thrown around the ice quite frequently. But how well do you know what some of these phrases mean, and more importantly, does it even mean what you think it means? Here’s a short breakdown of the most common terms used in hockey and what they actually mean.


Hockey goals come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same purpose – to score points. So whenever you see the puck drop into the net, you know that at least one person’s game has just been improved. To give you an idea of how many goals there are in hockey, there are currently 2,475 scored so far this season. That’s not even half of the total goals scored in the entire 2018-19 NHL season, so far!

The term ‘goal’ is used somewhat interchangeably with the terms ‘point’ or ‘spot on the goal line’, which can also mean the same thing. Technically, there is no such thing as a ‘foul goal’, but the referees don’t always catch everything, so it’s not uncommon to hear about them ‘missing’ a foul or two.


Any time the puck goes into the goalie‘s net, it’s automatically considered a ‘foul’. It doesn’t matter if the goalie touched it before it went in, it was touched by a member of the opposing team or it was even stuck in the goalpost for a while before the puck finally dropped – it’s all the same once the goalie stops it. There are four main categories of fouls in hockey: fighting, checking, hooking, and holding.

Fighting is the most common and most often-encountered foul in hockey. When two players square off and try to throw punches, there’s usually a referee right there to make sure that none of the fights get too bloody. If the puck is in the air at the time, it’s usually considered a foul to be on the receiving end of a solid hit – even if it’s an accidental hit. Checking is next, and it’s an easy way to earn a penalty if you aren’t careful. If you cross the ‘blue line’ while checking, it’s considered a check from behind, and the other player is given a minor penalty for being hit from behind.

Hooking and holding are also considered major penalties in hockey, and if a goalie interferes with the puck while it’s in the play, it’s usually because he was either hooked or holding it when he received the pass. Some goalies will even take a penalty for a hit against the puck if it was intentional. In any case, whenever the puck is in the air during a stoppage in play, it’s considered a priority for the referees to tend to these type of fouls.


This is a rule that was implemented to help create more exciting hockey. Essentially, the idea was to eliminate back-and-forth play and, instead, have the ball flow continuously towards the other team’s goal. It was felt that this would add more action and excitement to the game. In most situations, the puck is in the air for a lengthy amount of time before it hits the ice and there’s not really much a player can do in that case to avoid being tagged as offside. When the puck is on the ground and a player is approaching the puck to put it into play, however, it is strictly forbidden for any player other than the person in possession of the puck to be on that side of the play. If the puck is stolen by another player before being put into play, that’s considered an offside violation, even if it’s an accident and the player didn’t mean to steal it. It’s just the way the rule is written.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of rules that surround hockey and establish what is and isn’t allowed. The truth is that even the most experienced hockey players can have a hard time knowing what exactly is and isn’t permitted, which is why it’s always good to have someone who is officially charged with interpreting and enforcing the rules on your side.

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