NHL Penalties Guide

Penalties! Our guide to the Sin Bin and the consequences!

what is a penalty?

That’s a funny question – shouldn’t it be obvious?

Well, you would think, but it is anything but. 

You will save yourself a lot of anxiety if you realize one thing:


Only a few penalties are black and white. Most are at the discretion of the ref. 

When a player hits another with a stick is that a slashing penalty?

It depends on the ref’s judgement of perceived force and intent from the player. 

Yes. Subjective. 

5 Types of Penalties

  1. Minor penalty – 2 minute penalties and are most commonly called for tripping, slashing, high-sticking, holding, interference, and delay of game
  2. Major penalty –  5 minute penalties that can be the same type as a 2 minute minor penalty but the referee in his judgement has deemed the penalty to be one of an extra egregious play. Fighting by a player is deemed a major penalty
  3. Match Penalty –  5 minute penalty that also results in a player being removed for the duration of the game for intentionally injuring or attempting to injure another player
  4. Misconduct Penalty – 10 minute penalty but does not require that the team will be shorthanded while it is being served
  5. Penalty Shot –  Player is interfered from behind when he is on a breakaway. The player then gets to take the puck from center ice in on the goalie for a free shot with no other players on the ice – very exciting! 

How does fighting work in hockey?

Fighting in hockey is ILLEGAL.

Unlike in other sports you are not kicked out of the game for doing it.

So fighting is tolerated. 

Why is it tolerated? It is said to:

  • Release tenion in the game
  • Internal policing of the game
  • Deterent to protect star players
  • Create energy for your team

Special Teams

Special Teams refers to what happens after a penalty is called. One team goes on the Power Play while the other is on the Penalty Kill. 

Power Play: The non-penalized team has a ‘man advantage’ and will have 1 or 2 more players on the ice than their opponent

Penalty Kill: The penalized team plays ‘shorthanded’ and will have one or two less players on the ice for the duration of the penalty

Top 10 NHL Penalty Minutes seasons

  1. Dave Schultz (472) – 1974-75 season
  2. Paul Baxter (409) – 1981-82 season
  3. Mike Peluso (408) – 1991-92 season
  4. Dave Schultz (405) – 1977-78 season
  5. Marty McSorley (399) – 1992-93 season
  6. Bob Probert (398) – 1987-88 season
  7. Basil McRae (382) – 1987-88 season
  8. Joe Kocur (377) – 1985-86 season
  9. Tim Hunter (375) – 1988-89 season
  10. Donald Brashear (372) – 1997-98 season
Top Penalty Leader for the 2022-23 Season: Pat Maroon, Tampa Bay Lightning, 150 PIM
The NHL game today has way less fighting and penalty minutes than the fighters of the 1980s. It is a different style of hockey. 

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