Hockey rules include a variety of offenses that can be committed by players or even coaches. These can play a major role in the how games are played as penalties result in a team having to play shorthanded giving the other team a significant advantage in manpower on the ice and usually an excellent opportunity to score goals. Below are the general types of penalties, an explanation of some of the more common calls you'll see in games as well as the signals the referree or linesman will use to signal them in a game.
Please note that this is a general guide. USA Hockey rules, High School hockey rules and NCAA rules have some important differences that are summarized in this brief comparison. The is also a unique set of NHL rules.
Here is a general summary of the most common penalties:
Types of Penalties:
Minor Penalty Any player, other than a goaltender, shall be ruled off the ice for two minutes during which time no substitute shall be permitted. If the shorthanded team is scored upon before the two minutes elapse, the player in the penalty box is automatically released.
Major Penalty Any player, except the goaltender, shall be ruled off the ice for four or five minutes during which time no substitute shall be permitted. The player who is serving the major penalty must stay in the penalty box for the full five, regardless if a goal is scored upon their "shorthanded" team.
Goaltender's Penalties A goaltender shall not be sent to the penalty box for an infraction, but instead the minor penalty shall be served by another member of his team, who was on the ice when the infraction was committed.
Penalty shot No time served. Awarded for a player being fouled from behind and denied a breakaway scoring opportunity. Also called for deliberately displacing the goal post during a breakaway, or can be called when a defending player other than the goalie intentionally falls on the puck, ususually around the defensive net area.
Coincidental minor and/or major penalties result when players of two opposing teams are simultaneously assessed penalties of equal duration. In this case, the players may be substituted for, but all penalized players must serve their full time in the penalty box and wait for a stoppage of play to come out of the box. Generally, the timekeeper will not post these penalties on the scoreboard and the players will be required to stay in the box for the amount of time assessed and until "the next whistle".
Misconduct Penalty Any player, other than the goaltender, shall be ruled off the ice for a period of ten minutes. A substitute player is permitted to immediately replace a player serving a misconduct penalty. A player whose misconduct penalty has expired shall remain in the penalty box until the next stoppage of play. These penalties are often called in tandem with a minor penalty and you may hear it referred to as a "Two and ten". What this means is that the player has committed a foul such as Checking from Behind and his/her team must play shorthanded for 2 minutes but the offending player must then also stay off the ice for an additional 10 minutes. Generally, a team will put two players in the penalty box with one coming out after two minutes.
Match Penalty A match penalty involves the suspension of a player for the balance of the game and the offender shall be ordered to the dressing room immediately. A substitute player is permitted to replace the penalized player after five minutes of playing time has elapsed.
Game Misconduct A penalty that involves the suspension of a player for the balance of the game. A substitute is immediately permitted to take his place on the ice.