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Penalty Times and Penalty Box Exits

March 14, 2019, 11:48 AM ET [2 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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One of my favorite parts of working as a referee was getting to know the off-ice officials around the league. They are a great group of people who love the game and take their work seriously.
Part of the job of on-ice officials is to work in conjunction with the off-ice officials; for example, making sure the clock is correct and that players are released from the penalty box at the right time.

While most fans are well aware of confusing penalty situations as pertains to making correct rule interpretations (and how they affect a team), there can also be situations that potentially pose difficulty to off-ice officials. This is especially try at the grassroots levels of the game.

USA Hockey puts out a good guide for off-ice officials to navigate these situations. It is also a good overview for on-ice officials to be aware of situations where they need to be alert to any glitches. Below are a few such situations that can arise:

1. Coincidental Penalties – Penalties of equal duration called against opposing teams at same stoppage of play when the teams were skating the same strength prior to the calls.

a. Do not put penalties on the scoreboard (both are recorded on scoresheet)
b. Do not let players out of the penalty box until 1st whistle after penalty time expires
c. Neither player is to leave the penalty box if a goal is scored by either team prior to the expiration of the coincidental.

2. Minor Plus Misconduct – example: A 2 minute minor and 10 minute misconduct for “Checking From Behind”

a. Minor is posted on the scoreboard, misconduct is not (both are recorded on scoresheet)
b. Penalized player must serve both penalties consecutively starting with minor.
c. Misconduct starts when minor ends (either time expires or power play goal is scored). Misconduct is still not posted on scoreboard.
d. Penalized team must put additional player in penalty box to serve the time for the minor. This additional player leaves the penalty box when minor expires or other team scores power play goal.
e. Penalized team only skates shorthanded for minor, not misconduct.
f. Penalized player leaves penalty box at first whistle after misconduct time is over.

3. Stacked Penalties - If the same team receives a 3rd penalty while two others are already being served (all are non-coincidental).

a. The 3rd penalized player goes to the penalty box but his penalty does not start until the 1st penalty ends (either time expires or power play goal is scored).
b. Enter the penalty in the scoreclock immediately, and it will not appear/start on the clock until the 1st penalty ends.
c. Penalized team still has 3 skaters on the ice. (P1 and P2 are active, P3 has not started yet)
d. 1st penalized player leaves the penalty box at the first whistle after his penalty time expires OR when the other team scores a power play goal. P3’s penalty time starts when P1’s penalty ends.
e. The penalized team still has 3 skaters because penalties P2 and P3 are actively running.

4. Releasing Players from Penalty Box
a. In general, players are not released from the penalty box if on-ice strength is equal (i.e 4 on 4), and a goal is scored.

5. Goal Scored During Delayed Penalty – If teams are at full strength and Team A scores a goal while Team B has a delayed penalty, the goal counts and;
a. The penalty is recorded on the scoresheet.
b. The player from Team B does not go to the penalty box.

6. Carryover penalties - E.g. Penalties that carry over from 2nd Period (run time) to 3rd Period (stop time)

a. Take two-thirds of remaining penalty time at the end of 2nd period and use that to start 3rd period. For example: 2:27 remaining in a penalty at the end of the 2nd becomes 1:38 at start of 3rd (Note: this is not a USA Hockey Rule, but rather a league rule).


A Class of 2018 inductee to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games. Today, Stewart is the director of hockey officiating for the ECAC.

Visit Paul's official website, YaWannaGo.com
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