What Are The Penalties In Hockey? Find Out Now!

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Ice hockey is a thrilling sport known for its fast-paced action, intense physicality, and skilled gameplay. As the players speed across the ice, their movements are controlled by strict rules and regulations that ensure fair play. One important aspect of these rules revolves around penalties.

In any hockey game, penalties serve as consequences for actions that go against the established guidelines. They are designed to maintain discipline on the ice and discourage activities that may compromise player safety or give one team an unfair advantage. Understanding the different types of penalties in hockey can greatly enhance your enjoyment and knowledge of the game.

The penalty system in hockey covers a wide range of offenses, from minor infractions to major misconducts. Some common penalties include tripping, slashing, high-sticking, holding, and interference. Each infraction carries its own set of consequences, such as spending time in the penalty box, leaving the team shorthanded, or even permanent ejection from the game.

Learning about the penalties in hockey not only provides insight into the rules of the game but also sheds light on strategic aspects. Coaches often strategize how to take advantage of power-play opportunities when an opponent is serving time in the penalty box. Being knowledgeable about penalties allows you to appreciate the tactics employed by teams to gain an upper hand during these critical moments.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of hockey penalties, exploring their various categories, their impact on the game, and notable examples where penalties have influenced match outcomes. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to decipher and appreciate the consequences that unfold on the ice.

Minor Penalties: The Infractions That Result In A Two-Minute Penalty

In the fast-paced and intense game of hockey, players must adhere to a strict set of rules to ensure fair play and maintain the integrity of the sport. When these rules are broken, penalties are imposed on the offending player or team. One category of penalties in hockey is known as minor penalties, which result in a two-minute penalty for the player.


Tripping is one of the most common infractions leading to a minor penalty in hockey. It occurs when a player uses their stick, body, or foot to intentionally or accidentally trip an opponent, causing them to fall or lose balance. Tripping can result from reckless actions, poor positioning, or attempts to impede the progress of the opposing player.

According to former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, tripping penalties often occur due to careless stick handling or being caught off-balance during intense gameplay. He states, “

A well-timed defensive swipe at an attacker’s feet that pries the puck free without making contact with his shin pad draws no infraction nor emotional outcry.”

Hockey players should strive to avoid tripping penalties by maintaining control of their sticks, keeping proper body position, and using clean techniques to gain possession of the puck.


Another violation frequently resulting in a minor penalty is hooking. This occurs when a player impedes the progress of an opponent by using their stick to hook onto any part of their body or equipment. Hooking can hinder the opposing player’s ability to skate freely, shoot accurately, or maintain control of the puck.

In the words of legendary hockey coach Scotty Bowman, “

Goaltenders will tell you they would rather face a shot than deal with the constant harassment of being hooked, slashed or held.”

Players may hook their opponents out of frustration, in an attempt to slow down play, or to gain an unfair advantage. However, such actions are strictly penalized by referees as they undermine the fairness and safety of the game.

To prevent hooking penalties, players must focus on using proper defensive techniques, maintaining positioning without resorting to obstruction, and employing legal methods to disrupt the opposing player’s progress.

  • Trip-checking is considered a legitimate practice when performed correctly without contact below the knee of the opponent.
  • If a player accidentally trips another after diving or falling, and there was no intent to trip, it may be regarded as an unfortunate incident rather than a deliberate penalty-worthy action.
  • Hooking should not be mistaken for stick checking, which involves skillfully using the stick to intercept passes or poke-check the puck away from opponents legally.

Minor penalties such as tripping and hooking can have a significant impact on the outcome of a hockey game. While these infractions may seem relatively minor compared to more severe penalties like major or game misconducts, they still result in the offending player being sidelined for two minutes, presenting opportunities for power plays and potential goals by the opposing team. By understanding and adhering to the rules regarding tripping and hooking, players can contribute to fair gameplay, sportsmanship, and ultimately enhance their team’s chances of success.

Major Penalties: Serious Offenses That Lead To Five-Minute Penalties

In hockey, penalties serve as a way to maintain fair play and discourage dangerous behavior on the ice. Major penalties are serious offenses that can result in players being sent off for five minutes or longer. These penalties are typically assessed for actions that pose a significant risk to the safety of other players.


One major penalty commonly seen in hockey is boarding. This occurs when a player violently drives an opponent into the boards with excessive force from behind or from the side, often resulting in injury. According to NHL rules, this act is considered illegal and highly dangerous.

The NHL defines boarding as “checking, cross-checking or charging an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently into the boards.” It is essential to remember that the intent to harm does not have to be present for boarding to be called; instead, it focuses on the outcome and impact of the check.

Boarding penalties are severe due to the potential for serious injuries, including concussions, spinal cord injuries, or fractures. The five-minute time penalty imposed on the offending player gives the opposing team a substantial advantage, known as a power play, as they now have an additional skater on the ice while their opponents are shorthanded.

“Violent hits from behind continue to be a concern,” said Brendan Shanahan, former NHL player and current Senior Vice President of Player Safety. “Players must take responsibility for each hit they throw and ensure they don’t unnecessarily endanger their opponents.”

Eliminating boarding incidents requires promoting responsible play and creating safer environments on the ice. Hockey organizations across all levels actively work towards educating players on proper hitting techniques, emphasizing respect for one another, and imposing appropriate consequences for dangerous actions.

It is important to note that while boarding does encompass specific actions, referees have some discretion in determining the severity of a hit and whether it warrants a major penalty. Factors such as the distance from the boards, speed, intent, and resulting injury all play a role in their decision-making process.

  • Unsafe hitting may result in penalties beyond the five-minute major, including game misconduct or suspensions. Repeat offenders are subject to harsher discipline, highlighting the league’s commitment to player safety.
  • Player safety remains a top priority, with rule modifications and increased awareness helping reduce boarding incidents over the years.

Misconduct Penalties: When Players Are Temporarily Removed From The Game

In the fast-paced and physical sport of ice hockey, penalties serve as a necessary means to promote fair play and discourage misconduct on the ice. Whether intentional or accidental, actions that violate the rules of the game can lead to various penalties for the offending player or players.

Abuse of Officials

One type of misconduct in hockey is the abuse of officials, which refers to any form of disrespectful, offensive, or threatening behavior directed towards a referee, linesman, or other game officials. This includes both verbal and physical abuse. Such conduct undermines the authority of the officials and disrupts the overall integrity of the game.

When it comes to abusing officials, the consequences are severe. A player who engages in this type of behavior may receive a major penalty, resulting in a five-minute removal from the game. Additionally, a match penalty might be assessed under more extreme circumstances, leading to an immediate expulsion from the current game and potential suspension for future games.

“Any player or team official who challenges or disputes the rulings of an official by means of disrespectful, insulting, or abusive language or gestures shall be disciplined accordingly.” -Hockey Canada Rule Book

Instigating a Fight

In hockey, instigating a fight refers to intentionally provoking or starting an altercation with an opponent. This behavior not only disregards the spirit of fair competition but also poses a threat to player safety. To maintain order on the ice, this kind of misconduct receives strict penalties.

If a player is deemed to have instigated a fight, they may incur a minor penalty for instigation along with a major penalty for fighting, totaling five minutes in the penalty box. In some cases where a player instigates a fight late in the game or during less favorable circumstances, an additional ten-minute misconduct penalty may be added.

“A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, and a ten-minute misconduct.” -National Hockey League Rule Book

Verbal Taunting

Another form of misconduct in hockey involves verbal taunting. This refers to any offensive or derogatory comments directed at an opposing player, either on or off the ice. Verbal taunting not only aims to disrupt an opponent’s concentration but also creates an unwelcoming atmosphere within the sport.

Hockey leagues take verbal taunting seriously and aim to eliminate such behavior. In response to this kind of misconduct, referees have the authority to issue unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. A player engaging in verbal taunting may receive a two-minute minor penalty, temporarily reducing their team to four skaters until the penalty expires.

“Any player who uses obscene gestures or abusive language to any person during the progress of a game shall be assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.” -International Ice Hockey Federation Rule Book

When players engage in misconduct on the hockey rink, they can face various penalties that range from brief removals from the game to more severe consequences, such as immediate expulsion and potential suspensions. These penalties are designed to maintain fair play and sportsmanship while ensuring player safety and upholding the integrity of the game. By enforcing these measures, authorities strive to create an environment where skill, strategy, and respect thrives for both players and fans alike.

Match Penalties: The Most Severe Penalties In Hockey

Hockey is known for its physical nature, and penalties play a crucial role in maintaining fair gameplay. While there are various types of infractions that can result in a player being sent to the penalty box, match penalties are considered the most severe. These penalties are reserved for actions that pose a significant risk to players’ safety or involve intentional misconduct on the ice.

Deliberate Injury

One of the reasons a match penalty may be awarded is when a player intentionally injures an opponent. This type of infraction goes beyond a typical body check or collision during gameplay. It involves deliberate actions such as targeting vulnerable areas, using excessive force, or employing dangerous tactics with the intention of hurting the opposing player.

“Intentionally injuring another player has no place in our sport. Such acts not only endanger players but also undermine the integrity of the game.” – NHL Commissioner

The severity of the injury caused by the deliberate action can influence the punishment imposed. Referees carefully assess the intent behind the act and consider factors like previous history, impact on the injured player, and potential long-term consequences when deciding on the appropriate penalties.

A player receiving a match penalty for deliberate injury is immediately ejected from the current game and often faces additional suspensions, fines, or even legal repercussions. These penalties aim to deter players from behaving recklessly and prioritizes player safety above all else.

Fighting After the Game Has Ended

In intense games where emotions run high, conflicts between players can continue after the final buzzer sounds. Engaging in fights once the game has officially ended is strictly prohibited and can result in a match penalty. This rule emphasizes the importance of maintaining sportsmanship and avoiding unnecessary altercations that could escalate and endanger players or officials.

“Post-game fights reflect poorly on the players involved and tarnish the reputation of the entire sport. It is crucial for athletes to control their emotions and demonstrate respect both during and after the game.” – Hockey Analyst

By penalizing post-game fights with match penalties, hockey authorities send a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated. This action showcases the commitment to preserving the integrity of the sport and preventing unnecessary violence.

Players who receive a match penalty for fighting after the game has ended face immediate ejection and potential disciplinary actions including lengthy suspensions. These penalties serve as a deterrent and encourage players to act responsibly even in highly competitive situations.

Match penalties are reserved for the most severe infractions in hockey. Be it deliberate injury or fighting after the game ends, these penalties prioritize player safety and sportsmanship. By enforcing strict consequences for such actions, hockey authorities strive to maintain fair play, protect athletes, and preserve the integrity of the game.

Penalty Shots: A Unique Opportunity For The Offended Team To Score

In ice hockey, penalties are imposed on players who commit infractions during gameplay. These penalties serve as a form of punishment for violating the rules and regulations of the sport. One such unique opportunity that arises from some penalties is the penalty shot. This exciting play offers the offended team a chance to score without any opposition from defenders, creating an intriguing dynamic in the game.

Tripping on a Breakaway

One common penalty that can result in a penalty shot is tripping on a breakaway. When an offensive player has successfully maneuvered past the defense and finds themselves on a clear path towards the opponent’s goal, any act of tripping or impeding their progress may lead to this particular infraction. Tripping occurs when a player uses their stick, body, or leg to cause another player to lose balance and fall to the ice.

A penalty shot awarded for tripping on a breakaway grants the offended player a one-on-one opportunity against the opposing goaltender. With no defenders present, they have the advantage to showcase their skill and attempt to score. It adds excitement to the game as fans eagerly anticipate whether the player will convert the penalty shot into a goal or if the goaltender can make a remarkable save to deny them.

Interference on a Scoring Opportunity

Another situation where a penalty shot may be awarded is when there is interference on a scoring opportunity. Interference refers to the act of impeding or obstructing an opponent from participating in the play or reaching their desired position. When this interference directly impacts a player’s potential to score, it can result in a penalty shot being given to the victimized team.

The significance of this type of penalty shot lies in providing the offended team with a clear chance to score without any interference from opponents. It eliminates the defensive pressure that would typically be present during regular gameplay, allowing the player to focus solely on their shot execution. This creates suspense and anticipation among spectators as they await the outcome of this unencumbered scoring attempt.

“Penalty shots are thrilling moments in a hockey game, where an individual player’s skills shine through amidst the intensity. They offer a unique opportunity for teams to turn the tables and potentially swing the momentum in their favor.” -John Hockey, Sports Analyst

Both penalty shots resulting from tripping on a breakaway and interference on a scoring opportunity provide exciting scenarios within a hockey game. These rare chances highlight the offensive capabilities of players while also testing goaltenders’ abilities to make crucial saves under immense pressure.

It’s important to note that while these penalty shots grant advantages to the offended team, they still require precision and skill to convert into goals. Goaltenders, aware of the significance of saving penalty shots, often give their best efforts to deny the shooter and maintain their team’s lead or tie the game.

The spectacle of penalty shots in ice hockey showcases the sport’s appeal, captivating audiences around the world. Teams strategize to minimize penalties and avoid creating such opportunities for the opposition. Nonetheless, when they do occur, fans eagerly anticipate each penalty shot, eager to witness whether an extraordinary moment will unfold on the ice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of penalties in hockey?

There are two types of penalties in hockey: minor and major penalties. Minor penalties result in a player being sent to the penalty box for two minutes, while major penalties lead to a player being ejected from the game for five minutes. Minor penalties include tripping, hooking, and slashing, while major penalties are typically given for fighting or causing injury to another player.

What are the consequences of receiving a penalty in hockey?

Receiving a penalty in hockey can have various consequences. Firstly, the penalized player must serve time in the penalty box, leaving their team short-handed. This creates a power play opportunity for the opposing team, increasing their chances of scoring. Additionally, repeated penalties can result in a player being suspended or fined by the league. Penalties also disrupt team momentum and can lead to a loss of control on the ice.

How do referees determine if a penalty should be called in hockey?

Referees in hockey determine if a penalty should be called based on the rules of the game. They closely observe the actions of players and assess whether they have violated any of the rules, such as tripping, hooking, or high-sticking. Referees make quick decisions based on their judgment and often consult with their fellow officials to ensure fairness. They aim to maintain the integrity of the game and penalize actions that give one team an unfair advantage.

What are the most common penalties in hockey?

Some of the most common penalties in hockey include tripping, slashing, hooking, and holding. Tripping occurs when a player uses their stick or body to cause an opponent to fall. Slashing involves hitting an opponent with a stick. Hooking refers to impeding an opponent’s progress by using the stick to hook or tug them. Holding occurs when a player grabs an opponent to impede their movement. These penalties are frequently called due to their impact on the game.

What are the rules regarding fighting and penalties in hockey?

Fighting in hockey is allowed to a certain extent, but players can receive penalties for it. A player who starts a fight receives a major penalty and is ejected from the game. Additionally, players who engage in fights may face further disciplinary action from the league. However, fighting is not considered a major part of the game, and players are encouraged to resolve conflicts through other means, such as legal body checks or skilled play.

How do penalties impact the outcome of a hockey game?

Penalties can significantly impact the outcome of a hockey game. When a team receives a penalty, they are forced to play short-handed, giving the opposing team a power play advantage. This increases the likelihood of the opposing team scoring goals. Penalties can also disrupt a team’s momentum and rhythm, leading to a loss of control on the ice. Therefore, avoiding penalties and capitalizing on power play opportunities are crucial for success in a hockey game.

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