The sound of the puck ringing off the post may not make up the best of dreams during a goaltender’s sleep, but during a game, it might mean the difference between a win and a loss. That striking “ping” that’s heard all the way to the top of the stands means the puck didn’t cross the line in some circumstances, and that in itself is a victory for the goaltender and the defending team. Some might argue that it actually went in and then back out. But what really happens when the pill hits the post? Does it bounce back out or does it go in?

Post and Puck Bounce Physics

What if the puck did go in but bounced back off the post? It’s not quite possible according to the laws of physics, despite every fan’s wildest dreams. By NHL regulations, the goal post must be 2 3/8 inches in diameter (and round, no corners), and the puck must be 3 inches in diameter. No matter where the puck dings and rings when hitting the post, it can’t cross the line before it bounces off. (Unless it’s shot from inside the net, and that isn’t happening.)

The only way the puck can physically cross the line after bouncing off the post is if something else intercepts and redirects the motion, i.e., another player’s hockey stick. (Or his skate if there’s no kicking motion, but that’s a discussion for a whole different rule.) In that case, the goal goes to that player instead of the shooter who rang it off the post.

But What If It Doesn’t Bounce?

What hockey didn’t tell physics is that sometimes the shot rings the pipes without bouncing. The moves on the ice from many players seem to defy physics as the puck shoots past the netminder and chimes off the post into the net. Tarsenko, Malkin and Oshie all prove that it can be done in this video.

So, what’s really happening if physics says it can’t be done? Much of the mystery can be solved by considering the speed of the shot combined with the presence of the moisture from the ice on the puck. When the puck travels at speeds close to or above 100 mph, especially if the surface is wet from the ice, it’s really no surprise that it merely grazes the post without bouncing and lands in the net. Granted, it’s a loud, pinging, ringing graze, but that must be what happens.

Whether it goes in or not, that ringing sound off the post is the stuff dreams are made of. Sometimes glorious, sometimes a nightmare, but dreamy victory for someone!

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