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Ice Hockey | Hockey Penalties | National Hockey League

A penalty in ice hockey is a punishment for inappropriate behaviour, or the inappropriate behaviour itself (whether called or not). A referee makes all penalty calls. A linesman may call only obvious technical infractions such as too many men on the ice. In the NHL, the Linesman may call major intent-to-injure penalties that the referee may have missed. The statistic used to track penalties is called penalties in minutes (PIM).

During a penalty, the player who committed the infraction is sent to the penalty box. In most cases, the penalized team cannot replace that player and is thus shorthanded for the duration of the penalty. Normally, hockey teams have five skaters (excluding the goaltender), so if one penalty is called, play becomes five-on-four.

This is called a power play for the attackers and a penalty kill for the defenders. A team is far more likely to score on a power play than during normal play. During a power play, the defenders are allowed to ice the puck without a stoppage in play. If the penalized team is scored on during a minor penalty, the penalty immediately ends. If the penalty is a major, the advantage continues no matter how many goals are scored.

When a penalty is called, play is not stopped until the penalized team gains control of the puck. Thus, deliberately taking a penalty will not stop an offensive onslaught by the opposing team. During delayed penalties, the other team's goaltender will often leave the ice to add an extra attacker, as it is almost impossible for the opposition to score. The opposition cannot propel the puck into the net in any way, although it is possible for the team in control of the puck to score on its own net.

When a goaltender draws a penalty (except for a game misconduct or match penalty), he does not go to the penalty box. His penalty is served by a player that was on the ice at the time of the infraction. A bench minor– a penalty assessed to the team as a whole or a team official– is also served by a player on the ice at the time of the infraction. The coach may choose which player he wishes to serve the penalty in either of these situations.

Types of penalties

Minor
Lasts for up to two minutes. If the opposing team scores on the power play, the minor penalty expires and the penalized player may return to the ice.
Double minor
Lasts for up to four minutes. Served as two consecutive minor penalties: If a power play goal is scored during the first two minutes, only the first minor expires—the player must serve the remaining minor penalty. A double minor is assessed to a player when their foul causes the victim to bleed.
Major
Lasts for five minutes. The penalized player must serve the entire penalty regardless of whether or not the opposing team scores on the power play. If a major penalty involves injury to the head or face, a fine may be assesed. Three major penalties results in an automatic Game Misconduct Penalty. In the case of simultaneous major penalties to each team (i.e. fighting), the penalties do NOT cause either team to play shorthanded.
Misconduct
Lasts for ten minutes. This is a penalty to the player only; his team is not shorthanded during a misconduct (unless additional penalties are assessed). After the penalty expires, the penalized player must remain in the penalty box until the next stoppage of play. The player also is assesed a fine.
Game misconduct
The player is ejected from the game. This is a penalty to the player only; his team is not shorthanded (unless additional penalties are assessed). It also carries a fine. In some leagues, three Major penalties is also grounds for this penalty.
Gross misconduct
Similar to a game misconduct, except it implies an action of extreme unsportsmanlike conduct (such as abuse of officials or spectators) and can be assessed to any team official in addition to a player. It is defined as a travesty to the game (other examples include playing under the influence of alcohol, marijuanna).
Match
The player is ejected from the game and is ordered to the dressing room immediately, and automatically suspended from the league until a hearing is conducted. There are two types of match penalties: a ten minute penalty for deliberate injury to an opponent and a five minute penalty for intent to injure. In each case, 10 minutes is assessed in the player's penalty records. Another player on the offending team serves the penalty for its duration and does not return to the ice until the entire penalty time expires.
Game disqualification (NCAA only)
Similar to a match penalty, except a player serves an automatic suspension equaling one game for each game disqualification penalty called against that player in a season (i.e. a two-game suspension for the second game disqualification of a season).
Penalty shot
A player is given an attempt to score a goal without opposition from any defending players except the goaltender.

This penalty is called for fouling an opponent from behind (not from a side swipe) when the player has no one but the goaltender to beat, or for any defending player including the goaltender who throws his stick in the defending zone. A penalty shot may also be called if a defending player other than the goaltender gathers the puck into his body or grabs the puck in the defending zone (handling the puck with the hands).

A penalty shot is also awarded in the Southern Professional Hockey League in lieu of a power play during the final two minutes of an overtime for a minor penalty.

By far, minor penalties are the most common. Double minors tend to be a foul that would normally draw a minor penalty but also draws blood from the afflicted player, although others exist. Major penalties are assessed for infractions that could result in serious injury such as boarding and fighting. Misconducts and game misconducts are given when injury results and for persisting in the verbal abuse of a player, coach, or official. Match penalties are given for deliberate injury and attempted injury and serious disrespect of game officials, such as a coach refusing to let his team play a game.

For especially egregious infractions, a player will be suspended for a fixed number of games. In professional leagues, the player does not collect his salary during the suspension. Suspensions are not assessed during a game (except in the case of a match penalty), but decided in a hearing of league officials.

For infractions that are too minor to deserve a penalty such as icing, hand passes, and offsides, the team is penalized by a faceoff closer to their end, but this is not a penalty under the rules of hockey.

Coincident penalties and penalty expiration

When a team is shorthanded due to a penalty, upon its expiration the penalized player returns to the ice immediately and can join the play in progress. For penalties where a player must go to the penalty box but the team does not play shorthanded, the player must remain there after the penalty until there is a stoppage in play for some reason.

When both teams incur a penalty of the same type (for example, two minor penalties) during the same stoppage of play, they are said to be coincident. In most leagues, coincident penalties do not cause a team to be shorthanded; the penalized players must sit in the penalty box, but the teams remain at the same on-ice strength.

In the NHL and U.S. college hockey, when the teams are at full strength and coincident minors occur, both teams must play one man down: play is four-on-four. If coincident minors occur when either team is already shorthanded, the teams remain at the same numerical strength. When coincident majors, such as those for fighting, occur, the teams stay at full strength.

Coincident penalties are determined by time alone, not by the individual penalties. For example, if during a stoppage of play, one player is assessed a double minor penalty and two players from the other team are assessed minor penalties, those penalties are considered coincident and play remains at five-on-five.

Teams must have at least three skaters on the ice. If a team that already is down to three men is penalized, that penalty does not start until one of the previous penalties expires. In this situation, the newly penalized player must sit in the box right away. When the original penalty expires, that player may not return to the ice until a stoppage of play, so that his team still has the correct number of players on the ice.

Minor penalties only expire when a team is shorthanded. If play is five-on-five, four-on-four, or three-on-three and a goal is scored, no penalties expire.

In leagues which play with a four-on-four overtime, the first minor penalty means the offended team plays down one man; a second penalty while the first penalty is occurring means the team with the two-man advantage will actually add a player, making the penalty five-on-three until the next stoppage of play after the penalty expires.

In the Southern Professional Hockey League, with a three-on-three overtime, each minor penalty means the team with the power play will play with an additional skater during the first three minutes of the overtime. In the final two minutes, no power play is awarded; instead, officials award a penalty shot to the team which would have received the power play, mainly to give the team a better chance at winning the game, since a power play would not be fully awarded.

List of penalties

In the NHL, infractions that result in penalties include:

Attempt to injure
Deliberately trying to seriously harm an opponent.
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.
Charging
Taking more than three strides and/or jumping before hitting an opponent.
Checking from behind
Hitting an opponent from behind is a penalty. See checking.
Clipping
Delivering a check below the knees of an opponent.
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).
Diving
When a player dives to draw a penalty.
Elbowing
Hitting an opponent with the elbow.
Fighting
Serious roughing in which punches are repeatedly thrown.
Goaltender Interference
Impeding or checking the goalie.
Head-butting
Hitting an opponent with the head. A match penalty is called for doing so.
High sticking
Touching an opponent or puck with a stick above shoulder level.
Holding
Grabbing an opponent or their stick with the hands or stick.
Hooking
Using a stick as a hook to slow an opponent.
Illegal Equipment
Using equipment that does not meet regulations, either by size (length, width) or number (two sticks) or using a stick with a blade that exceeds 3/4 inch in curve.
Interference
Impeding an opponent who does not have the puck.
Kicking
Kicking an opponent with the skate or skate blade. It carries an automatic match penalty.
Kneeing
Hitting an opponent with the knee.
Roughing
Pushing and shoving or throwing punches.
Slashing
Swinging a stick at an opponent, no contact is required.
Slue Footing
Rarely called, as it is easily concealed. Tripping an opponent by using your feet.
Spearing
Stabbing an opponent with the stick blade. It carries an automatic major penalty.
Starting the wrong lineup
This very rare 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.
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.
Tripping
Using a stick or one's body to trip an opponent.
Unsportsmanlike conduct
Arguing with a referee; using slurs against an opponent or teammate; playing with illegal equipment

Other leagues typically assess penalties for additional infractions. For example, most adult social leagues and women's hockey leagues ban all body checking, and in most amateur leagues, any head contact whatsoever results in a penalty.

Penalty as strategy

Coaches or players may occasionally opt to inflict a penalty on purpose, especially when they are trailing. In some cases, it is hoped that the infraction can be concealed from the officials, thereby not being called. Gordie Howe was one player renowned for his ability to inflict penalties without being called.

Many infractions (ie. butt-ending) are called more harshly in part because they are easily concealed from officials.

Hockey players that opt to inflict a penalty despite the punishment, do so in order to degrade the opposing team's morale or momentum, or boost their own. This is most obvious in a hockey fight, but can arise from virtually any minor penalty. It is hoped that the temporary set-back of a penalty kill will be offset by the effect on the two teams' overall play.

Another common reason to inflict a penalty on purpose is to rob an opposing player of an excellent scoring opportunity. In these cases a player may hold, hook, or impede another player who otherwise would likely have scored - preferring to kill a minor penalty than give up a likely goal. The over-use of such penalties is mitigated by the possibility of a penalty shot being called.

When a penalty is taken for one of these reasons, it is commonly (yet informally) known as a good penalty.

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 3966 over 14 years. The active penalty minute leader is Chris Chelios, who has accumulated 2,803 PIM over 23 years.

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 (due to multiple infractions), 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.

 


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