Understanding Misconducts and Game Misconducts in Hockey

On a regular basis in hockey you will hear of a player getting a misconduct penalty for 10 minutes. However, sometimes they come back into the game and sometimes they do not, and why doesn’t the other team get a power play for 10 minutes? It can be confusing. 

What is a misconduct penalty in hockey? It is a penalty in hockey that requires the player to leave the game for 10 minutes, but the team is allowed to substitute a player on the ice for them. A regular misconduct allows the player to re-enter the game, whereas a game misconduct penalty will result in them being ejected for the rest of the game.

There is more to it than this simple definition so let’s figure out all of the nuances around the misconduct penalty and game misconduct penalty .


What is a misconduct penalty?


A misconduct penalty is a 10 minute penalty where the player must leave the ice for that portion of the game, but, unlike other penalties, the team is allowed to substitute for that player on the ice.  The player is allowed back into the game after the 10 minute penalty has been served. 

What this looks like in the game is that a player will head to the dressing room for the balance of the 10 minutes of the penalty, and the team they play for does not have to kill a penalty for that 10 minutes. 

No penalty kill. No power play. Just simply keep playing 5-on-5 as usual. 

The player who gets the penalty must sit the entire duration of the penalty, and is not allowed back on the ice until the first whistle after the 10 minutes has been served (in other words, he cannot jump back into the play if the game is going on when the 10 minutes is up). 


What is a 10 minute game misconduct?


A game misconduct is a 10 minute penalty, plus an automatic ejection from the game with no chance of returning from the game. The team receiving the 10 minute game misconduct is allowed to substitute for the player (they are not forced to go on the penalty kill), however the player ejected from the game is not allowed back in the game. 

Any player receiving a 10 minute game misconduct will automatically have the play that incurred the penalty reviewed by the league, who may give further discipline with a fine or suspension. 

From the following list a player who receives 3 game misconducts in a season or 2 game misconducts in the playoffs will receive an automatic one game suspension: 

  1. Charging – Rule 47(b)(c)
  2. Clipping – Rule 49(b)
  3. Elbowing – Rule 53(b)
  4. Fighting off the playing surface – Rule 56(c)
  5. Head-butting – Rule 60(b)
  6. Inciting an opponent into incurring a penalty – Rule 41(g)
  7. Intervening in an altercation – Rule 56(d)
  8. Kneeing – Rule 71
  9. Not properly tied down during altercation – Rule 56(a)
  10. Obscene Language or Gestures – Rule 73(a)
  11. Persists in continuing an altercation – Rule 56(f)
  12. Removing jersey prior to altercation – Rule 56(a)
  13. Resisting a Linesman in the discharge of his duties – Rule 41(f)
  14. Secondary Altercation – Rule 56(a)(f)
  15. Third major penalty in a game – Rule 27(b)
  16. Throwing stick outside the playing area – Rule 88(c)

Additional suspension games can be added on to the automatic one game suspension depending on the severity of the incident. 


What types of incidents or plays result in misconduct or game misconduct penalties? 


Misconducts are usually given out not so much for a certain type of penalty like elbowing, but for a player who is behaving in an unsportsmanlike way and needs to go to the dressing room for a long-break to calm down before they come back in a game. 

The most common type of misconduct penalty is usually for unsportsmanlike behaviour. In other words, they are probably crossing the line in what they are saying to the official or how they verbally interact with the other team. 

For a game misconduct penalty it is usually given for an incident that could have easily caused or did cause injury to the opponent. This is really an egregious act that is way beyond the normal standards of the game such as head-butting. 

The NHL has added a game misconduct penalty onto a play where it is deemed that a player has incited a fight – ie. the other player is not willing to fight, but has to because of the actions of the other. 

This has been one of the reasons fighting in the NHL has dropped because you can no longer bully another player into fighting – they have to be a willing participant. 

Who wants to be kicked out of the game for starting a fight? A player who keeps doing this would find themselves in the minors very quickly. A team cannot afford to be playing with a shortened roster in games. 


What happens when a player gets a minor penalty and misconduct at the same time?


A minor penalty and a misconduct can be given at the same time. For instance, a player would get a 2 minute penalty for roughing, and because they are going overboard (to say it nicely) they will get a 10 minute misconduct. 

The player will have to go to the dressing room to serve the 10 minute penalty, and another player from their team (of the coach’s choosing) will need to go serve their 2 minute minor penalty. 

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If the other team scores during the minor penalty it will be over, but, again, the 10 minute misconduct must be served in full. 


What happens when a goalie gets a misconduct penalty? 


When a goalie gets a misconduct penalty they are not required to leave the game. They are allowed to stay in the net and keep stopping pucks. This is the one exception to the rule.

It is seen as too harsh of a penalty to require the goalie to leave the game – they simply get the penalty minutes added to their stats!

However, if a goalie got a game misconduct they would be required to leave the game and the backup goalie would need to come in. The severity of a game misconduct – that usually revolves around injury or official abuse – is deemed worthy enough to kick the goalie out of the game. 


What is the difference between a game misconduct and a match penalty?


The difference between a game misconduct and match penalty are the length of penalty and whether the team is allowed to substitute a player or not. 

With a misconduct penalty the length of the penalty is 10 minutes and the team is allowed to substitute a player into the game – ie. they do not have to kill a penalty but get to stay 5-on-5. 

With a match penalty the length of the penalty is 5 minutes and the team will lose a player on the ice for the whole 5 minutes. Even if the opposing team scores a goal during this penalty the penalty will not be over.

When a player receives a match penalty they automatically receive a 10 minute game misconduct and are kicked out of the game. Therefore, the match penalty makes the team shorthanded on the ice and gets them out of the rest of the remaining game. 


Is a game misconduct a major penalty?


No, a game misconduct is not a major penalty. However, when a player receives a major penalty they are automatically given a 10 minute game misconduct. 

This is done so that the team of the player is required to be shorthanded for five minutes on the ice and have the player ejected from the game. 

A game misconduct simply removes the player from the game with no disadvantage given during the play. 


What happens if you get a game misconduct at the end of the game?


In terms of game play, there is really nothing of consequence that happens to the player or team when a player is given a misconduct at the end of a game.. The penalty is not carried over to another game, and it will have no effect on the current game. 

The one thing it can do is that if it is a game misconduct it can be reviewed by the league and lead to a possible suspension. Or, if they have received three certain types of game misconducts/misconducts they can receive an automatic one game suspension. 

Well, I guess there is one thing that happens – players receive a $100 fine for a game misconduct!  I’m sure they can cover that with the change they find in their couch!

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Can a player or coach get more than one game misconduct? 

In one game they can get a misconduct and a game misconduct – even on the same play. However, they cannot get two game misconducts in one game. 

Once you get a game misconduct you are kicked out of the game, so there is no way to get another one. 


Can a coach get a game misconduct for arguing a call?  


A coach, manager or trainer can get a gross misconduct penalty for actions they preform on the bench. This means they will be suspended for the balance of the game. 

It is very common for coaches to get – what is called a bench minor- for unsportsmanlike behavior, which results in a 2 minute minor penalty. 

However, it is very, very rare for a coach to get kicked out of the game in the NHL. I’m having a hard time remembering if I have seen it happen. It is not like baseball where managers get kicked out of the game on a regular basis. 

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