- For clarity, male pronouns will be used throughout this article
in ice hockey
is a punishment
for inappropriate behavior
. Most penalties are enforced by detaining the offending player within a penalty box
for a set number of minutes during which he can not participate in play. The offending team usually may not replace the player on the ice, leaving them short-handed
(as opposed to full strength) or penalty killing
until the penalty expires and the player returns to the ice. The opposing team is said to be on a power play
, having one player more on the ice than the short-handed team. While standards vary somewhat between leagues, most leagues recognize several common degrees of penalty, as well as common infractions. The statistic used to track penalties was traditionally called Penalty Infraction Minutes
), although the alternate term Penalties in Minutes
has become common in recent years.
Enforcement of penalties
(s) make most penalty calls. Linesmen
generally may call only certain obvious technical infractions such as "too many players on the ice". When a penalty is called, the official will put his arm in the air; he will stop play only once the offending team has control of the puck, or play is stopped by normal means. A delayed penalty
is one in which the a penalty is called but play is not yet stopped because the opposing team retains the puck. The goaltender of the non-offending team will often go to the players' bench upon seeing the arm signal to allow an extra attacker
on the ice until the play is stopped.
In the NHL, if the non-offending team scores a goal prior to play being stopped on a delayed minor penalty call, the penalty is waived. For major penalties and match penalties, this is not the case, and the penalties are enforced in the usual manner, whether or not a goal is scored.
The offending player(s) are sent to the penalty box where they must remain until the penalty has expired. Typically a team will not be allowed to replace the penalized player on the ice; he will return directly to the ice once the penalty has expires. This creates a powerplay during which the penalized team will have one player fewer than their opponent and is said to be "short-handed". If two players on a team are in the penalty box at the same time, their team will be in a "five-on-three" situation (as is customary, the goalies are not counted in this expression). Additional players may be penalized, but a team will never play with fewer than three skaters on the ice. Additional penalties will be delayed until one of the earlier penalties has expired.
In leagues which play with a four-on-four overtime, the first penalty leaves the teams at four-on-three, while a second penalty to the same team during the first results in the opposing team adding a player, making the penalty five-on-three until the first stoppage of play after second the penalty expires. Similarly, in the Southern Professional Hockey League, where they play three-on-three overtime, each minor penalty results in the opposing team adding a skater to the ice. In the final two minutes of overtime, however, officials instead award a penalty shot to the team which would have received the powerplay, mainly to give the team a better chance at winning the game, since a powerplay would be cut short by the end of the game.
While goaltenders can be assessed penalties, these will be served by another player from their team who was on the ice at the time of the infraction.
While a team is short-handed, they are permitted to ice the puck as they wish. Being shorthanded during the final minutes of a game in which the opponents take their goaltender out for an extra attacker affords the short-handed team the ability to shoot at the empty net without the penalty of icing if they miss.
Types of penalties
The National Hockey League
recognizes the common penalty degrees of minor and major penalties, as well as the more severe misconduct, game misconduct, and match penalties. There are complicated rules as to how the penalties are enforced, but the basic principles are as follows (listed in order from least to most serious penalties):
A minor penalty is the most common form of penalty, which is assessed for common infractions. A player who receives a minor penalty will remain off the ice for two minutes of play during which his team will be short-handed. If a goal is scored against a team short-handed by a minor penalty, the penalty ends immediately. Similarly, if a goal is scored against the offending team on a delayed penalty which would be a minor penalty, the penalty is negated. However, if a team has been assessed multiple minor penalties, a goal against them will end only the earliest assessed minor penalty.
In the NHL and U.S. college hockey, if minor penalties are assessed to one player on each team at the same time ("coincidental") while teams are at full strength, the teams will each play with four skaters in "four-on-four" play. Since neither team is short-handed, a goal in four-on-four play does not end either penalty. In USA Hockey and IIHF, however, coincidental minor penalties result in normal full strength hockey, and the players may not return to the ice until the first stoppage in play after the penalties expire.
Bench minors are minor penalties which are assessed against the team as a whole; any player other than the goaltender may be selected to serve a bench minor. For certain offences, a player may be assessed a double minor, which simply entails serving two consecutive minor penalties. They are typically issued for instances of high-sticking which result in injury. Though not part of official USA Hockey rules , some "in-house" amateur or non-checking leagues instruct referees to call a double minor for stick penalties such as high-sticking, slashing, tripping with the stick, hooking or cross-checking, regardless of whether an injury was sustained as a result. If a goal is scored during the first penalty of a double minor, the first penalty expires and the second immediately begins. If a goal is scored against the offending team on a delayed penalty that is to be a double minor, the first penalty is negated and the second is enforced as a normal minor.
Common infractions which incur a minor penalty include: cross-checking, high-sticking, holding, holding the stick, hooking, interference, roughing, slashing, delaying the game and tripping.
A major penalty is a stronger degree of penalty for a more severe infraction of the rules than a minor. Most penalties which incur a major are more severe instances of minor penalty infractions; the exception is fighting which always draws a major. A player who receives a major penalty will remain off the ice for five minutes of play during which his team will be short-handed. A major penalty will not end if a goal is scored against the short-handed team.
If major penalties are assessed to one player on each team at the same time, they may be substituted for and teams will not be reduced by one player on the ice. They will remain in the penalty box until the first stoppage of play following the expiry of the penalties. This commonly occurs with majors for fighting.
Earning three major penalties in a game results in an automatic game misconduct penalty; though a number of infractions that result in a major penalty automatically impose a game misconduct as well.
Infractions that often call for a major penalty include - spearing, fighting, butt-ending, charging, and boarding.
A player who receives a misconduct penalty will remain off the ice for ten minutes. The player may be substituted for on the ice and may return to the ice at the first stoppage in play following the expiry of the penalty (unless other penalties were assessed).
Game misconduct penalty
A player (whether a skater or goaltender) who receives a game misconduct penalty is ejected, and is sent to the team's dressing room. He may be immediately substituted for on the ice, however, in practice, game misconduct penalties are normally assessed along with five minute major penalties and another player will serve this penalty first. Regardless of the time of the penalty, the player is charged with ten penalty minutes for statistical purposes. This rule also applies to match penalties (see below).
Any player who is dismissed three times in an NHL season incurs a one-match ban, and further discipline is possible for subsequent ejections. Salary lost as a result of a ban is usually donated to a league-supported charity or program to assist retired players.
A player who receives a match penalty is ejected
. A match penalty is imposed for deliberately injuring or attempting to injure another player. Any player other than the goaltender must be chosen to go to the penalty box to serve a five minute major penalty during which he may not be substituted for on the ice. If the goaltender receives a match penalty, another player serves his time so that the team may immediately insert a backup. In practice, an NHL match penalty and game misconduct are virtually identical in application. Further, the offending player is suspended from the next game his team plays, and often faces a hearing with the possibility of a lengthier ban.
In NCAA hockey, a similar penalty called a game disqualification results in automatic suspension for the number of games equal to the number of game disqualification penalties the player has been assessed in that season.
A penalty shot is a special case of penalty for cases in which a scoring opportunity was lost as a result of an infraction (like being tripped or hooked while on a breakaway.). The player who was deprived of the opportunity is allowed a free chance to score on the opposing goaltender as compensation. Apart from their use as a penalty, penalty shots also form the shootout
that is used to resolve ties in many leagues and tournaments.
Gross misconduct penalty
Similar to a game misconduct, gross misconduct penalties were eliminated from the NHL rulebook on June 20
. It was imposed for an action of extreme unsportsmanlike conduct, such as abuse of officials or spectators, and could be assessed to any team official in addition to a player. Infractions which garnered a gross misconduct now earn a game misconduct. The penalty had last been assessed in 2000.
When two players on one team are in the penalty box at the same time, it becomes a 5 on 3 situation. When a third player of the same team gets a penalty before either of the other two have expired, it remains 5 on 3 and it becomes a stacked penalties situation. This means the third penalty will start when one of the others expire, whether the time expires or the opposing team scores on the powerplay. This is because there can be no fewer than three skaters for each team on the ice at one time.
List of infractions
In the NHL, infractions that result in penalties include: Abuse of officials : Arguing with, insulting, using obscene gestures or language directed at or in reference to, or deliberately making violent contact with any on or off-ice official. This generally is issued in addition to other penalties or as a bench penalty against a coach or off-ice player, and is grounds for ejection under a game misconduct or match penalty in most leagues including the NHL. Aggressor penalty : Assessed to the player involved in a fight who was the more aggressive during the fight. This is independent of the instigator penalty, but both are usually not assessed to the same player (in that case the player's penalty for fighting is usually escalated to deliberate injury of opponents, which carries a match penalty). Attempt to injure: Deliberately trying to harm an opponent (and/or succeeding). This type of infraction carries an automatic match penalty. Boarding
: Pushing an opponent violently into the boards. Butt-ending (or Stabbing): Jabbing an opponent with the end of the shaft of the stick. It carries an automatic major penalty and game misconduct. Charging
: Taking more than three strides or jumping before hitting an opponent. Checking from behind: Hitting an opponent from behind is a penalty. It carries an automatic minor penalty and misconduct, or a major penalty and game misconduct if it results in injury. See checking
: Delivering a check below the knees of an opponent. If injury results, a major penalty and a game misconduct will result. Cross-checking
: Hitting an opponent with the stick when it is held with two hands and no part of the stick is on the ice. Delay of game
: Deliberately stalling the game (for example, deliberately shooting the puck out of play, holding the puck in the hand, refusing to send players out for a faceoff, or even repeated deliberate offsides). As part of the rule changes following the 2004-05 NHL lockout
, NHL officials also call an automatic delay of game penalty to goaltenders that go into the corners behind the goal line (outside a trapezoid
-shaped area just behind the net) to play the puck. Some delay of game offenses, such as taking too long to send players to take a faceoff, are not punished with a penalty: instead, the official may choose to eject the center of the offending team from the face-off circle and order him replaced with another player already on the ice. Diving : Falling to the ice in an attempt to draw a penalty. Elbowing
: Hitting an opponent with the elbow. Fighting
(Fisticuffs): Engaging in a physical altercation with an opposing player, usually involving the throwing of punches with gloves removed or worse. Minor altercations such as simple pushing and shoving, and punching with gloves still in place, are generally called as Roughing. Goaltender Interference: Physically impeding or checking the goalie. Visually impeding the goalie's view of the play with your body, called "screening", is legal. Head-butting: Hitting an opponent with the head. A match penalty is called for doing so.
High sticking: Touching an opponent with the stick above shoulder level. A minor penalty is assessed to the player. If blood is drawn, a double-minor (4 minutes) is usually called. A common (yet false) belief is that blood drawn automatically warrants a double-minor. This is not the case (it is, however, the precedent that has been in place for years). The referee may use his discretion to assess only a minor penalty even though blood was drawn. He may also assess a double-minor when blood is not drawn, but he believes that the player was sufficiently injured or that the offending player used excessively reckless action with his stick. If a player, while in the action of "following through" on a shot, strikes an opposing player in the head or face area with his stick, high sticking is not called unless the referee can determine that the player taking the shot was deliberately aiming to strike the opposing player. A penalty is also not called when the puck is hit by a high stick, but play will be stopped and the ensuing faceoff will take place at a spot which gives the non-offending team an advantage. Also, a goal that is scored by means of hitting the puck with a high stick will not be counted. Holding: Grabbing an opponent's body, equipment or clothing with the hands or stick. Generally a minor; USA Hockey
rules call for a major and a game misconduct for grabbing and holding a facemask or visor. Holding the stick: Grabbing and holding an opponent's stick, also called when a player deliberately wrenches a stick from the hands of an opposing player or forces him to drop it by any means that is not any other penalty such as Slashing. Hooking
: Using a stick as a hook to slow an opponent, no contact is required under new standards. Illegal Equipment: Using equipment that does not meet regulations, either by size (length, width) or number (two sticks) or other guidelines (e.g. a goalie's facemask can no longer be the "Jason
"-style form-fit mask, a player may not have a stick with a curve exceeding 3/4", nor may they play with a goalie's stick). If a player broke his stick, it is mandatory to drop the stick immediately and play without it until getting a replacement from the bench. Otherwise this penalty will be assessed to the offending player (some game summaries call this "playing with a broken stick"). In addition, in the NHL a player may not pick a stick up off the ground after it has been dropped (they can only receive a stick from another player or from the bench; goalkeepers may not go to the bench but must have a stick carried out to them). This rule is generally not enforced in amateur leagues except for broken sticks or egregiously out-of-spec equipment as the cost of acquiring gear that meets NHL specifications "post-lockout" is prohibitive, especially for goalies. However, from 2009 onwards USA Hockey will enforce the NHL goal equipment specs, as will IIHF. While allowing "big pads" until then, USA Hockey stated in their 2007 Official Rules and Casebook of Ice Hockey
that they "strongly encourage" goaltenders to follow the new regulations before they take effect. Instigator penalty: Being the obvious instigator in a fight. Called in addition to the five minute major for fighting. Interference: Impeding an opponent who does not have the puck, or impeding any player from the bench. Joining a fight: Also called the "3rd man in" rule, the first person who was not part of a fight when it broke out but participates in said fight once it has started for any reason (even to pull the players apart) is charged with an automatic game misconduct in addition to any other penalties they receive for fighting. Kicking
: Kicking an opponent with the skate or skate blade. Kicking carries a match penalty if done with intent to injure, but otherwise carries a major penalty and a game misconduct. (Under Hockey Canada rules, kicking or attempting to kick an opponent always carries a Match Penalty regardless of intent.) Kneeing
: Hitting an opponent with the knee. Roughing: Pushing and shoving or throwing punches that are not severe enough to be considered fighting. Also called in non-checking leagues when an illegal body check is made. Secondary Altercation : This infraction is not listed in the NHL Rulebook, but it is prevalent in the Central Hockey League (USA) and other minor leagues. It is most commonly issued when a player engages in or attempts to engage in another fight after that same player has just been disengaged from a previous fight by the linesmen (a rare occurrence in the NHL, but surprisingly common in minor league hockey). It may also be called if a player is deemed to be in violation of the "third man in" rule. This infraction carries an automatic game misconduct penalty. Slashing : Swinging a stick at an opponent, no contact is required under new standards. Slew Footing : Rarely called, as it is easily concealed. Tripping an opponent by using your feet. Most of the time simply called as "Tripping"; Slew footing as a penalty in fact does not exist in the USA Hockey rulebook . Spearing : Stabbing an opponent with the stick blade. It carries an automatic major penalty and game misconduct. Starting the wrong lineup: This very rare bench minor penalty is called when the offending team fails to put the starting lineup on the ice at the beginning of each period, the exception being injuries. For this penalty to be called, the captain of the non-offending team must bring this breach of the rules to the referee's attention immediately at the first stoppage of play. Also the penalty may be given if a player is not put on the scoresheet at the beginning of the game and plays. The only way for this to be called is if the official scorer notifies the referee of this oversight. Substitution infraction (Illegal Substitution) : This rare bench minor penalty is called when a substitution or addition is attempted during a stoppage of play after the linesmen have signalled no more substitutions (once the face-off is set) or if a team pulls its goalie and then attempts to have the goalie re-enter play at any time other than during a stoppage of play. Too many men on the ice and/or starting the wrong lineup can also simply be called a substitution infraction. Too many men on the ice : Having more than six players (including the goalie) on the ice involved in the play at any given time. "Involved in the play" is key; players that are entering the ice as substitutes for players coming off may enter the ice once the player returning to the bench is less than five (5) feet from his team's bench (Rule 74.1); at that point the returning player is considered out of the play, even if the play passes in front of the bench, unless he actively makes a move for the puck. The player entering the ice is part of the play as soon as his skates touch the ice. Tripping
: Using a stick or one's body to trip an opponent, no contact is required under new standards. Unsportsmanlike conduct
: Arguing with a referee; using slurs against an opponent or teammate; playing with illegal equipment; making obscene gestures or abusing an official. Can carry either a minor, misconduct, game misconduct or match penalty, depending on the gravity of the infraction (for instance, using obscene language to a referee initially results in a minor, but making an obscene gesture to an opponent, fan or official carries a game misconduct.) Also, in some leagues the penalty progression is different for players and team officials (for example, in the USA Hockey rulebook players get a minor for their first infraction, a misconduct for their second and a game misconduct for their third, whereas the option of a misconduct is removed for coaches; in addition, after each penalty for a team official, the penalty count resets itself). Unsportsmanlike conduct may also be called if a player drops his gloves and stick in preparation for a fight, but the non-offending player does not drop his equipment and has committed no action (verbal or physical harassment) to attempt to instigate a fight. As of April 14 2008
, following a Devils-Rangers playoff game, the NHL ruled that standing in front of an opposing goalie and engaging "in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender" will draw a minor unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a rule interpretation inspired by the play of Sean Avery
against Martin Brodeur.
Other leagues typically assess penalties for additional infractions. For example, most adult social leagues and women's hockey leagues ban all body checking (a penalty for roughing or illegal check is called), and in most amateur leagues, any head contact whatsoever results in a penalty.
Penalty as strategy
Coaches or players may occasionally opt to commit an infraction on purpose. In some cases, it is hoped that the infraction can be concealed from the officials, avoiding a penalty. Gordie Howe
was one player renowned for his ability to commit infractions without being called.
Hockey players that opt to commit an infraction despite the punishment do so in order to degrade the opposing team's morale or momentum, or boost their own. This is most common with fighting, because the likely coincidental penalties do not result in a hindrance for their team. Hockey players also sometimes commit infractions with the hope of drawing the other player into a committing a retaliatory infraction, and being penalized, while not being caught themselves. Hockey players known as "pests" specialize their game in the strategy of trying to draw opponents into taking a penalty.
Another common reason to commit an infraction is as last resort when an opposing player has a scoring opportunity, when a penalty kill is the preferable alternative to the scoring opportunity.
NHL penalty records
The record for the most penalty minutes in one season is held by Dave Schultz
of the Philadelphia Flyers
with 472 in the 1974-75 NHL season
. The record for most penalty minutes in a career is held by Tiger Williams
who had 3,966 over 14 years. The active penalty minute leader is Chris Chelios
from the Detroit Red Wings
, who has accumulated 2,873 PIM over 25 seasons.
The most penalties in a single game occurred in a fight-filled match between the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers on March 5, 2004 when 419 penalty minutes were handed out. Statistically, a game misconduct counts as 10 penalty minutes, in addition to other penalties handed out. In rare cases (as a result of multiple infractions, for instance the player participating in multiple fights), multiple game misconducts may be handed to a player - that is merely statistical, not (automatically) a multi-game suspension, although the league will often suspend the player in a subsequent decision.
is a retired Canadian ice hockey
player who spent most of his career with teams in the American Hockey League
. In the 1996-97 season
, Bonvie set a new AHL record for penalty minutes in one season, with 522 PIM. He retired after the 2007-08 season
holding the AHL all-time record, a number of individual teams' records, and the all-time record for professional hockey, with 4,792 penalty minutes at the end of the regular season.