Rules for Penalties – Hockey Resource

There are a lot of different infractions that can be called during a hockey game. These infractions are called penalties and usually end up with the player going to the penalty box for a finite amount of time. This amount of time depends on the nature of the infraction as well as the league in which you play.

Types of penalties

There are 2 types of penalties, minor and major. For a minor penalty, the time passed in the penalty box is 2 minutes (3 minutes running time). As for a major infraction, it usually results in a 5 minute penalty (7 for running time) and often times a suspension of one game or more, depending on the infraction committed. Some infractions can be double minors, where essentially two minor penalties are served back-to-back. In some cases, an referee may issue a misconduct to a specific player rather than the team, this is typically 10 minutes in duration where the player cannot re-enter the ice surface.

How the penalty is served

For all infractions other than a misconduct, the penalized team must play with one player less while their player is in the penalty box. This gives a significant advantage to the other team who will now always have one player free. The penalized team is, however able to ice the puck without causing a whistle/play stoppage for icing. When the penalty is over, the player in the penalty box can exit and join the play immediately. If the opposing team scores a goal while they have a player advantage due to a minor penalty (not a double minor), the penalty ends.

Simultaneous penalties

In the case where players from both teams have a penalty at the same time and for the same duration, both teams continue play with their regular amount of players. In this case, the players must remain in the box after the penalty is over until there is a stoppage in play and they can then exit the penalty box and return to their bench.

Minimum number of players on the ice

A team cannot have less than 3 players on the ice. If there are more than 2 penalties, they are served one after the other. In other words, when the first penalty expires, the player cannot enter the ice surface if there are 2 remaining penalties to serve. The player can return to their bench during a play stoppage or when another penalty expires.

Penalty shots

Another option exists in some cases: the penalty shot. A penalty shot is called when a player would have a clear chance for a breakaway (alone against the goaltender) but is obstructed from doing so by another player. The puck is then placed at center ice, the obstructed player takes the puck and attempts to score on the goaltender. Meanwhile, all other players must be at their bench and cannot interfere with the penalty shot. Once the penalty shot is over, play resumes via a faceoff at center ice, if the player scored, or by a faceoff beside the goaltender if the penalty shot was unsuccessful. During a penalty shot, the player must remain in control of the puck and moving forward towards the goal. Once the player shoots, the penalty shot is over, there are no rebounds.

List of Minor infractions

  • Bench minor: the coach, a member of the hockey staff or sometimes a player on the bench complaining/acting unruly towards the officials on the ice.
  • Boarding: hitting/body checking a player from the opposing team into the boards when they are positioned 2-3 feet (~1 meter) from the boards before the body check.
  • Cross-checking: hitting an opponent with the portion of the stick between the hands.
  • Delay of game: a player/coach purposely delaying the resuming of the game. In the NHL, whenever a player shoots the puck over the glass in their defensive zone, without the puck either being redirected or touching the glass, a delay of game penalty is assessed to that player.
  • Elbowing: using an elbow to hit an opponent.
  • Face-off violation: when the linesman/referee decides that the players on the ice for one of the team are not acting properly (e.g. the wingers are not positioned properly), they will remove the player taking the face-off and another player on the ice will take their place. If this happens twice for the same team on the same face-off, a penalty is called for face-off violation.
  • Falling on(or holding) the puck: a player deliberately falling on/holding the puck to prevent players from the opposing team to touch it. The player can fall on the puck accidentally, but they have to try to get themselves up without too much of a delay. A player can also swat the puck with their gloves in the defensive zone, but they cannot close their hand on it. A player putting their hand over the puck when it is in the crease in the defensive zone (other than the goaltender) is also an infraction.
  • High stick: hitting a player of the opposing team above their elbows with their stick.
  • Hit to the head: hitting an opponent in the head is now considered an infraction in the NHL. The referee can decide if the hit deserves a minor or major penalty. Furthermore, the league may decide to suspend the player for an amount of games depending on the severity of the hit and that player’s past history.
  • Hitting from behind: body checking an opponent when their back is towards that player.
  • Holding: using arms or any other part of the body to hold an opponent and restrain them from playing the game.
  • Holding the stick: holding the stick of an opponent using a part of the body.
  • Hooking: using the stick to “hook” or to impede the movement of a player from the opposing team.
  • Illegal use of equipment: using an illegal piece of equipment to play the game. (e.g. a broken hockey stick to play, illegal dimensions of equipment)
  • Interference: preventing a player from the opposing team from getting to the puck without them having control of the puck. If a player does not have the puck, you can not body check them.
  • Kneeing: using a knee to hit an opponent.
  • Roughing: acting violently/roughly towards a player from the opposing team.
  • Slashing: using the stick to hit a player from the opposing team using a slashing motion.
  • Tripping: using the stick or any part of the body to make a player from the opposing team trip/fall down.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct: acting in an unruly/disrespectful/violent way towards either other players on the ice or the officials.

List of Major infractions

  • Attempt to Injure: attempting to injure another player on the ice.
  • Butt-ending: using the tip of hockey stick closest to the upper hand to hit/jab an opponent.
  • Fighting: removing the gloves and fighting with a player of the opposing team.
  • Leaving the (player/penalty) bench: when a player exits either the player bench or penalty bench to go and fight. Even if the player leaving one of the benches does not fight, exiting the bench when a fight occurs is considered a penalty.
  • Spearing: using the hockey stick to spear/thrust into the other players body.

Other Considerations

Specific leagues may have additional rules above and beyond these ones. There are often also disciplinary committees for major infractions or when players have accrued a certain amount of penalty minutes. Players may need to discuss their infraction(s) with the committee to determine if they will be suspended from playing and for how many games. In some cases, the player may be ejected from the season, the league, or even a number of leagues depending on the infractions.

Some leagues have maximum allowable penalty minutes per game, for example, if a player has 3 minor penalties, they are ejected from the game.






One response to “Rules for Penalties – Hockey Resource”

  1. […] a penalty is when a player commits an infraction. (see Penalties article) It results in the player committing the infraction spending a definite amount of time in […]

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