The 1 Minute Penalty.

Posted by Dean Sprung on

I'm old enough now to remember when CBC television broadcasts of NHL games would show the amount of time remaining in a penalty.  For years now, all network broadcasts have turned that negative into a positive by showing the time remaining in the power play.  It's marketing for the 'man advantage' or 'player advantage' to be gender correct.  It's the thrill and skill of watching your team move the puck around for up to 2 minutes to create scoring chances. That makes power plays exciting.  On the defending side, it's the desperation of the PK to stop a PK from scoring.

That works well in pro and elite levels of the game but does it work in minor hockey?  The 2 minute minor needs to change:

  • Loss of ice time - 2 minutes is 6.6% of a 30 minute game or 4.4% of a 45 minute game for a player.
  • Scoring advantage - What percentage of total goals scored is from the power play for your team? As of today the Columbus Blue Jackets are leading with 34% and the Buffalo Sabres are the lowest with 14.7% of their goals coming from the PP.  It would be interesting to know how many seconds into the PP they were scored.
  • Scoring disadvantage - Everybody loves a 'shorty' and any good coach looks at being short-handed as a scoring opportunity.  Ironically, the Sabres are leading PK scorers with 6.7% and  the Red Wings and Panthers are tied at 0%.
  • Shame and injury prevention - We all love the line out of the movie Slap Shot "...Two minutes, by yourself, you know and you feel shame, you know. And then you get free.".  A penalty for young players can be traumatic for some and menacing for others.  Does the 2 minute rest soften the player or give them enough time to ponder what they did and think twice about doing it again?  Do penalties curb the number of injuries in hockey?
  • Player development -  Power plays and penalty kills are team play systems.  Based on the Hockey Canada player development model, systems are introduced at the Atom level and only comprise 15% of overall development at the Midget level.  Lets say a game averages 5 minutes of power plays in a game.  That's 11% of a 45 minute game where many technical skills are not being applied by both teams.  Also, since the majority of play is contained in one zone, the speed of the game (end to end action) has been reduced by 11% as well.  Most coaches will spend 5% of weekly practice time on 5 on 4 situations and rarely spend time on 5 on 3 situations. 
  • Referees - Do young aspiring refs need to be yelled at by coaches and parents for calling a 2 minute minor penalty?  Do they worry about or feel responsible for how a call might change the outcome of the game?  How many calls are questionable?

Introducing the 1 minute penalty.

For the sake of ice time, player & referee development, speed of the game, and the low impact a power play has on the outcome of a game in minor hockey, let's start using a 1 minute penalty.

  • 1 minute penalty up to Bantam - stick infractions, delay of game, too many players, bench minor, falling on the puck, interference, unsportsmanlike.  
  • 2 minute penalty - boarding, checking, charging, slashing to the body, checking to the head, kneeing, elbowing.


  • For every 1 minute penalty incurred, the opposing team is granted 1 shoot out attempt at the end of the game.  The points awarded in regulation for a win or tie are not affected by the outcome of the shoot out.  The results of the shoot out are recorded separately and do not affect a team's standings.  This now brings a new level of fun and entertainment in minor hockey that has been enjoyed in pro and international hockey for years.


Photo courtesy of the Hockey Terms app for iPhone

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