A penalty in ice hockey is a punishment for an infringement of the rules. Most penalties are enforced by sending the offending player to a penalty box for a set number of minutes. During the penalty the player may not participate in play. Penalties are called and enforced by the referee, or in some cases the linesmen. The offending team may not replace the player on the ice (although there are some exceptions, such as fighting), leaving them short-handed as opposed to full strength. When the opposing team is said to be on a power play, they will have one more player on the ice than the short-handed team. The short-handed team is said to be "on the penalty kill" until the penalty expires and the penalized player returns to play. While standards vary somewhat between leagues, most leagues recognize several common varieties of penalties, as well as common infractions.
The statistic used to track penalties was traditionally called "Penalty Infraction Minutes" (PIM), although the alternate term "penalty minutes" has become common in recent years. It represents the total assessed length of penalties each player or team has accrued.
The first codified rules of hockey, known as the Halifax Rules, were brought to Montreal by James Creighton, who organized the first indoor hockey game in 1875. Two years later, the Montreal Gazette documented the first set of "Montreal Rules", which noted that "charging from behind, tripping, collaring, kicking or shinning the ball shall not be allowed". The only penalty outlined by these rules was that play would be stopped, and a "bully" (faceoff) would take place. Revised rules in 1886 mandated that any player in violation of these rules would be given two warnings, but on a third offence would be removed from the game.
It was not until 1904 that players were ruled off the ice for infractions. At that time, a referee could assess a two-, three- or five-minute penalty, depending on the severity of the foul. By 1914, all penalties were five minutes in length, reduced to three minutes two years later, and the offending player was given an additional fine. When the National Hockey League (NHL) was founded in 1917, it mandated that a team could not substitute for any player who was assessed a penalty, thus requiring them to play shorthanded for the duration. The penalty was shortened to two minutes for the 1921–22 season, while five- and ten-minute penalties were added two years later.
Both the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) recognize the common penalty degrees of minor and major penalties, as well as the more severe misconduct, game misconduct, and match penalties.
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A minor penalty is the least severe type of penalty. A minor penalty is two minutes in length. The offending player is sent to the penalty box and in most cases, his team will play shorthanded. If the offending player is the goaltender or a team is given a "bench minor" penalty (assessed against the team, rather than an individual player), then any skater who was on the ice at the time of the infraction may serve the penalty. In rare cases, when the offending player suffers an injury on the same play, whoever is on the ice at the time of the penalty may also serve the penalty, as was the case of Game 2 of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, when Phil Kessel served a penalty in place of Tom Kuhnhackl.
A team with a numerical advantage in players will go on a power play. If they score a goal during this time, the penalty will end and the offending player may return to the ice. In hockey's formative years, teams were shorthanded for the entire length of a minor penalty. The NHL changed this rule following the 1955–56 season where the Montreal Canadiens frequently scored multiple goals on one power play. Most famous was a game on November 5, 1955, when Jean Béliveau scored three goals in 44 seconds, all on the same power play, in a 4–2 victory over the Boston Bruins.
Coincidental (or "matching") minor penalties occur when an equal number of players from each team are given a minor penalty at the same time. The permission of a substitute player depends on the league and the situation at the time of the infractions. In some leagues, such as the NHL, the teams will play four-on-four for the duration of the penalties if they occurred when both teams were at even strength. However, if there is already a manpower differential, then both teams are allowed to make substitutions while the penalized players will remain in the penalty box until the first stoppage in play after their penalty expires. In other competitions, such as IIHF events, coincidental penalties do not affect manpower in any situation. Coincidental minor penalties are not ended when a goal is scored by either team.
In some cases, a referee can impose a double or triple minor. The infraction is counted as two or three separate minor penalties. If a team scores a power play goal during such a penalty, only the current block of two minutes being counted down is canceled; the penalty clock is then reset to the next lowest interval of two minutes (ex. a goal with a double-minor penalty clock at 3:45 is reset to 2:00). Expiration rules of double- or triple-minor penalties due to goals being scored are identical to that of regular minor penalties being served back-to-back.
A major penalty is a stronger degree of penalty for a more severe infraction of the rules than a minor. Most infractions which incur a major penalty are more severe instances of minor penalty infractions; one 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 cannot end early even if a goal is scored against the short-handed team, unless the goal is scored during an overtime period (which ends the game). 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. The penalized players will remain in the penalty box until the first stoppage of play following the end of the penalties. This commonly occurs with majors for fighting.
Under IIHF rules, every major penalty carries an automatic game misconduct penalty; in other competitions, earning three major penalties in a game results in a 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 expiration of the penalty (unless other penalties were assessed); however, in practice, misconduct penalties are normally assessed along with two minute minor penalties (resulting in a penalty combination colloquially called a "two-and-ten"). If an additional penalty is incurred with a misconduct penalty, the times run concurrently (simultaneously), with another eligible player serving the other penalty in the offender's place to enforce a disadvantage. For example, if a player receives a 2-minute minor plus a misconduct for boarding, two players will be sent to the penalty box: the offender and a teammate of his, frequently one who was on the ice at the time. The team is allowed to immediately substitute for the offender, so there is only a one-man disadvantage. Once the boarding penalty ends, the teammate can return to the ice, and both teams are at full strength again while the offender remains in the penalty box until the first stoppage in play after his ten minutes elapse. This is according to USA Hockey Rule 404(a) and NHL Rule 28. In the event the other penalty is a major, most adult leagues allow deferring placing the substitute player into the penalty box so long as he is in place before the major penalty expires (but the team must still play shorthanded). In such cases, only a player from the penalty box can emerge in place of the offender after the end of the major penalty.
Misconduct penalties are usually called to temporarily take a player off the ice and allow tempers to cool. They are sometimes also assessed in conjunction with fighting majors, giving the offending player(s) the opportunity to calm down as they sit out their ten minutes.
A player (whether a skater, goaltender or any member of any team's coaching staff) who receives a game misconduct penalty is ejected, and is sent to the team's dressing room. The player may be immediately substituted for on the ice; however, in practice, game misconduct penalties are often assessed as an addition to a particularly egregious infraction that has also earned the player a two-minute minor penalty or (more often) a five-minute major penalty, in which case another player will serve this penalty in place of the ejected player. Regardless of the time during the game that the penalty is given, the player is charged with ten penalty minutes (twenty in the IIHF rules) for statistical purposes for the game misconduct. This rule also applies to match penalties (see below).
In most leagues, the referee has the discretion to call a game misconduct on a player charged with boarding due to the likelihood of injury to the boarded player. However, in the NHL, if a boarded player suffers a head or facial injury (a concussion risk), the offending player receives an automatic game misconduct.
Any player who is dismissed twice for stick infractions, boarding or checking from behind, or dismissed three times for any reason, in a single NHL regular season incurs an automatic one-match ban, and further discipline is possible for subsequent ejections. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty, the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game. Salary lost as a result of a ban is usually donated to a league-supported charity or to a program to assist retired players.
Examples of a game misconduct penalty include getting out of the penalty box before the penalty time is served, trying to join or attempt to break up a fight (third man in), or earning a second misconduct penalty in the same game.
A player who receives a match penalty is ejected. A match penalty is imposed for deliberately injuring another player as well as attempting to injure another player. Many other penalties automatically become match penalties if injuries actually occur: under NHL rules, butt-ending, goalies using blocking glove to the face of another player, head-butting, punching an unsuspecting player, spearing, and tape on hands during altercation must be called as a match penalty if injuries occur; under IIHF rules, kneeing and checking to the head or neck area must be called as a match penalty if injuries occur.
The team of the offending player must choose a substitute player to place in the box from any of the eligible players, excluding the goaltender . The substitute serves a five-minute penalty similar to a major penalty (except in overtime, goals scored against the penalized team do not end the penalty early). If the goaltender receives a match penalty, another player serves the time so that the team may immediately insert a backup. In most cases, offending players are suspended from the next game their team plays, and often face hearings with the possibility of a lengthier ban. In the NHL, a match penalty and a game misconduct are virtually identical in application. However, a match penalty carries a larger fine, and the offending player is suspended indefinitely until the Commissioner rules on the issue.
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.
For statistical purposes, match penalty is counted as ten minutes in NHL and as twenty-five minutes under the IIHF rules.
Main article: Penalty shot (ice hockey)
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; or a player - other than the goaltender - covers the puck with their hand inside the crease). The player who was deprived of the opportunity (in cases the infraction was against him, for example, on breakaways), or one chosen by the team (in cases where the infraction is not against a specific player), is allowed an unchallenged opportunity to score on the opposing goaltender as compensation. If the infraction occurred when the penalized team has pulled their goalie and the infraction occurs during a breakaway, a goal is immediately awarded to the other team rather than a penalty shot. Regardless of whether or not the penalty shot is successful, the penalty is now treated as if a goal had been scored during that penalty; a minor penalty is negated, and a double-minor is reduced to a regular minor. Major, match, and misconduct penalties are served in their entirety as these are not affected by goals.
Apart from their use as a penalty, penalty shots also form the shootout that is used to resolve ties in many leagues and tournaments.
Similar to a game misconduct in severity, gross misconduct penalties have been eliminated from the NHL rulebook. 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 2006 on Atlanta Thrashers coach Bob Hartley due to post-game comments made regarding referee Mick McGeough's blown call during a game versus Edmonton. The Phoenix Coyotes' Shane Doan was the last player to be given a gross misconduct penalty in 2005 for alleged ethnic slurs directed at French-Canadian referees (later investigated and subsequently cleared by the NHL).
However, this penalty is still in effect in Canadian hockey. “A Gross Misconduct penalty shall be assessed [to] any player or team official who conducts herself in such a manner as to make a travesty of the game.”
The referee(s) make most penalty calls. Linesmen generally may call only certain obvious technical infractions such as "too many players on the ice". The official will initially put an arm in the air to signal a penalty; the official 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 penalty is called but play is not yet stopped because the non-offending 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. Once the offending team touches the puck and the play is stopped, the referee will signal the specific infraction.
In the NHL, if the non-offending team scores a goal in a delayed penalty situation, then it is treated as if a goal was scored during that penalty. Thus, if the delayed penalty is a minor, the penalty is waved off. If the delayed penalty is a double-minor, only the first two-minute block is waved off, and the offending player must still serve the second time block. These rules used to be in college hockey as well, until the 2010-2011 season, when it was changed so that the penalty would still be imposed even if a goal was scored. Major penalties and match penalties, which are not affected by goals, are enforced in the usual manner, in both college hockey and the NHL, 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; the player will return directly to the ice once the penalty has expired. This creates a power play 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, the situation is called a "five on three" (as is customary, the goalies are not counted in this expression) or "two-man advantage". 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 (see stacked penalties below).
In leagues which play with a shorthanded overtime (with only three or four attackers on the ice), should a team be penalized with only three players on the ice, an additional skater is added to the other team instead, until a five-on-three is produced. If a penalty in this situation expires without a goal being scored, the penalized player will be allowed back on the ice and will play normally until there is a stoppage; both teams will then be reduced back to the correct numbers. Ending coincidental penalties produce a similar situation, with both teams playing with additional players until play is stopped, allowing teams to be reduced again.
While goaltenders can be assessed penalties, a goaltender cannot go to the penalty box and the penalty must be instead served by another player from their team who was on the ice at the time of the infraction (the PIM will be charged to the goaltender). If the goaltender receives either (a) three major penalties (NHL Rule 28.2), (b) one game misconduct penalty (NHL Rule 28.4), or (c) one match penalty (NHL Rule 28.5) however, he or she is ejected for the remainder of the game and must be substituted.
While a team is short-handed, they are permitted to ice the puck as they wish, without having the icing infraction called against them. This allows short-handed teams to relieve pressure more easily when defending with fewer skaters than their opponents. This exemption does not apply to teams whose opponents have pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker (unless the defending team is killing a penalty at the same time).
A team must skate a minimum of three attackers on the ice at all times. If an accumulation of penalties would otherwise force a team to fall below this minimum, the situation becomes known as "stacked penalties". This means that the new penalty will start when one of the already-penalized players causing the disadvantage is allowed back onto the ice, whether the time expires or the opposing team scores on the Power Play. This also means that the player whose penalty expires first out of the three must wait for a stoppage in play, or the expiration of the second penalty, before leaving the penalty box so that it is appropriately 5 on 3, 5 on 4, and 5 on 5 in succession for each respective situation. Penalties that allow for immediate substitution (certain coincidental penalties and misconduct penalties) do not produce a disadvantage and thus do not count for stacked penalties. Stacked penalties still apply in shorthanded overtimes because two penalties still result in a five-on-three situation regardless of the initial lineup due to the rules allowing an extra attacker as needed.
In the NHL, infractions that result in penalties include:
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. If a player pulls down another female's ponytail, they will be charged with a game misconduct penalty.
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 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. An example is Sean Avery, who was renowned in his ability to goad opponents into taking penalties as well as making other fundamental mistakes. Some players, coaches, and fans find this technique unsportsmanlike.
It is also not uncommon to see players "dive" or make a borderline hit appear to be a penalty by embellishing or exaggerating their reaction to it; this, however, is a penalty in itself, although it is inconsistently enforced.
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. These are referred to on most broadcasts as "Good Penalties".
The NHL keeps individual statistics on the penalties each player accrues through the penalties in minutes statistic (abbreviated "PIM"). Players renowned for their fighting or for being dirty players will usually lead their team in PIM and have such statistics highlighted by the media.
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 Neil from the Ottawa Senators, who has accumulated 2,265 PIM. Neil is now playing in his 12th NHL season.
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.[original research?]
On 9 January 2010, a massive brawl broke out in an Avangard Omsk game against Vityaz Chekhov. The conflict started during pre-game warm-ups when Darcy Verot intentionally shot a puck at Lasse Kukkonen forcing Alexander Svitov to stand up for his teammate. Soon after the game started Brandon Sugden challenged Svitov to another fight, which then involved all other 8 skaters on the ice. A number of other fights ensued resulting in a bench- and penalty-box clearing. The officials had to suspend the game just after 3 minutes 39 seconds in the first period as there were only four players left to play the game. A world record total of 707 penalty minutes were incurred during the game. The KHL imposed heavy fines on both teams, some players and the head coaches as well as disqualifying six Vityaz's players and Avangard's Dmitry Vlasenkov, who was first to leave the bench during a fight. The game was counted as a 5-0 defeat for both teams with no points being awarded.
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