Let's See More Penalty Shots
In Minor Hockey

Editorial By:
Robert Kirwan
President and CEO
Infocom Canada Business Consultants Inc.


One of the most exciting plays in hockey is the penalty shot. 

Technically speaking, the Referee's Case Book states that in order for a penalty shot to be awarded, five conditions must be met:

bulletThe attacking player must have control of the puck. In other words, he cannot merely be chasing the puck. He must be carrying the puck or stick handling. Note the difference between control and possession in this case. A player who is the last one to touch the puck is said to be in possession of the puck. In order to be in control of the puck, a player must be propelling or carrying the puck.
bulletThe determining factor is the position of the puck when the infraction is committed. The puck must be in the neutral or attacking zone when the infraction is committed.
bulletThe attacking player must have no defending player to pass other than the goaltender. There must be a clear path to the goaltender and in the opinion of the referee, the attacking player must be in a position where he would easily make it to the goal prior to any other defending player getting in his way.
bulletThe attacking player must be fouled from behind. In other words, if you could draw a line across the ice behind the attacking player the defending player must be behind that line.
bulletThe attacking player must have been denied a reasonable scoring opportunity.

Now, when you add up all of the conditions, it becomes clear that there are generally a few situations during the course of most games when a referee would be justified in awarding a penalty shot. Since it is entirely up to the referee to determine if all of the conditions are met, and since it is a judgement call, penalty shots could be a lot more common than not.

It is my opinion that if players knew that there was a good chance that a referee would call penalty shots more freely, there would be fewer defending players trying to hack and slash at the feet or legs of players who have managed to skate by them with the puck. 

Once a defender is clearly beaten, instead of putting his head down and trying to out race the attacking player, we often see the defending player trying to hook or slash the player on the breakaway in an attempt to slow down the attacking player until another defender has a chance to catch up. The risk of a penalty shot being called may reduce the frequency of this type of infraction.

Hockey is a fast game. It is also a game where the referee is given a lot of discretion in determining the call to make. One of the things I have personally observed over the years is that while you will see a lot of arguing and emotion when penalties are called, you don't hear very much complaining when a penalty shot is called. 

I submit that this is because everyone in the building loves to see a penalty shot. It is exciting for the player taking the shot. It is equally exciting for the goaltender. It is one-on-one and both the player and goaltender are up for the challenge. 

Another thing the penalty shot does is calm down the game. It takes a few minutes to set up the penalty shot and this has a calming effect on a game which may have taken an emotional turn for the worse.

So my advice to referees is to use your discretion and make the call whenever you have an opportunity. Nothing upsets me more than seeing a talented player get in the clear and then have to put up with slashing to his legs, feet and back or hooking up around his shoulders as a defender tries to throw him off balance and prevent a good scoring chance. Instead of sending the defender to the box for two minutes, give a penalty shot and teach him a lesson. 

The next time it happens, perhaps the defender will try to use speed to prevent the scoring chance.

Until the next time...



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