The goal crease in hockey is the shaded blue area in front of each team's goal. The crease is carved into the ice and is shaded blue to stand out. This is the area that is given to the goalie to stop the opposing teams shots and keep the puck out. This area is intended to be a safe zone for the goalie where they are protected. A lot of goalies also use the crease to determine where they are positioned in relation to the goal without having to look behind their back.
There are several rules in hockey regarding the crease. First off, opposing players are prohibited from making any contact with the goalie in the crease. If players do this they will receive a 2 minute penalty and a goal could be waived off if there is contact with the goalie in the crease on a scoring play. For reference, when goalies are outside of the crease, they are not allowed to be hit but only incidental or unintentional contact is allowed.
Another rule is that the puck has to enter the crease before any part of the opposing player's body, including a skate or a stick enters the crease. Lastly, defenders are prohibited from grabbing, covering or concealing the puck in any way and if they do so, a penalty shot is awarded for the opposing team.
The standard National Hockey League crease is 8 feet wide, with two sides measuring 4 feet each connected by a semi-circle. The semi-circle is 6 feet long at its apex and connects the two 4 foot long sides. The goal itself is 6 feet wide, making the width of the crease a foot longer than the goal on both sides. The crease is shaded blue and is outlined with a 2inch red border.
In the NHL, a player can be in the crease when a goal is scored as long as they meet a few criteria. They are not allowed to impede the goalies movement whatsoever within the crease and any contact whatsoever, will result in the goal being waived off. If a player is in the crease and violates these criteria, that goal will be waived off and the player will likely receive a 2 minute penalty for goaltender interference.
Players are not allowed to impede the goalies movement within the crease in any way shape or form. Therefore, if players are in a position that is impeding the goalies movement within the crease, goalies can initiate contact with a player by pushing them. This will prove that the player is impeding the goalies movement and if the player does not immediately vacate their position, they can be called for a 2 minute goalie interference penalty.
Outside of their crease, goalies are allowed to be unintentionally hit. If a player makes intentional contact with a goalie, whether it is inside or outside of their crease, they will receive a 2 minute penalty. However, if a goalie is outside of their crease, they are allowed to be hit if the contact is unintentional or incidental. This decision is up to the referees discretion and is often a difficult call to make.