Penalties are an important part of the game of hockey. Without them, it would be easy for teams to take advantage of their opponents, running up the score and avoiding any sort of comeback.
The length of hockey penalties has changed over the years. In the past, players would sometimes stay in the penalty box for the entire duration of the game. These days, after the two-minute minor penalty for delay of game, players usually only stay in the box for a couple of minutes at most.
However, there are exceptions to every rule. Some games have longer penalties than others, and some teams are more aggressive than others when it comes to drawing penalties, creating a unique dynamic that can’t be explained by simply comparing the rules of one game to the next.
Longest Penalties Generally Come In Pre-Snap Penalty Periods
Hockey is a fast-paced game, which means there are frequent breaks in play. This is when the referee signals for the penalty shot, or when the play is stopped for a face-off. These moments usually result in a brief pause in the action, during which the referee assesses whether or not the play warrants a penalty.
If the referee deems that a penalty should be called, he will blow his whistle and order either a penalty shot, a face-off, or a line change. The penalty shot is a quick free play that allows a player to score a goal by kicking the puck into the net. Face-offs occur whenever the puck is in possession of both teams in the neutral zone; the players line up along the centre line and pass the puck back and forth until someone gains the upper hand. Line changes happen whenever a team is whistled for holding the puck too long or after a bad icing or face-off call.
As we’ve already established, these are relatively brief moments in which the action is held up. However, it’s during these times that the penalties become longer. If the referee calls a penalty during these moments of increased action, then the penalty will be three to four minutes long, depending on how long the play was paused before the penalty.
It’s worth noting that most of these penalties occur in the third period. The reason for this is simple: as the game wears on, the pace slows down. There are fewer stoppages in play, which means that the penalty clock won’t be running as fast to begin with. Once the third period starts, the penalties will generally start getting shorter as well, serving as a relief to the players and fans alike.
How Many Penalties Does A Game Usually See?
It’s also important to keep in mind the frequency with which these penalties occur. A game that is relatively low in penalties will be slower-paced than a game that is higher in penalties. Since the game slows down as the third period approaches, the fewer penalties a game sees, the better. There will be fewer stoppages in play, and the game will move at a more leisurely pace. In other words, the less penalties there are, the better.
Based on the available data from Hockey-Reference.com, the following is a chart that illustrates the relationship between the frequency of penalties and game speed. It is important to remember that this is only one of many factors that influence the speed of a game, but it is one that can be controlled by the coach. In other words, if the coach wants his players to play at a faster pace, then he needs to adjust his strategies accordingly, especially in the third period.
Shortest Penalties Generally Occur In Games That Are Lower In Flagrant Violations
As we’ve established, some games see longer penalties than others. This is particularly useful for coaches who want to increase the tempo of their teams’ play. To do this, they will need to adjust their strategies and be more aggressive when calling penalties. This is usually easier said than done. Simply put, coaches who want to adjust the pace of their teams’ play usually find it harder to get the referees to call fewer penalties.
This trend is easy enough to understand. When the referees see players going at one another, they often hesitate before blowing the whistle, wanting to see whether or not the play warrants a penalty. The more penalties a game sees, the more hesitant the referees are likely to be when another infraction occurs. As a result, the players will get frustrated, the coaches will have to tighten up their game plans, and flagrant violations will decrease, eventually leading to fewer penalties and a faster game. This is because the referees will have less to worry about. The fewer penalties a game sees, the easier and shorter the penalties will be. Finally, no one likes slow-moving games, so everyone wins in the end.
As a general rule, the fewer penalties a game sees, the faster it tends to go. This can be attributed to a number of factors, one of which is the unique dynamics that exist between the different referees who officiate the various games. Some of these dynamics are completely random and based on nothing more than good luck, while others can be attributed to the aggressiveness of one team or the other. The only way to find out which ones are legitimate and which ones are the result of mere coincidence is by closely tracking the trends over the course of several seasons.
Ultimately, the length of a hockey penalty is largely dependent on the rules of the game. It is also, to some extent, dependent on the referees, whose judgments on whether or not a penalty should be called are never easy to understand. Nevertheless, coaches and players can do their best to limit the length of these penalties, especially in the third period, by practicing good sportsmanship and creating more opportunities for teams to score uncontested goals.