Roughing: Retaliation After The Whistle

During every hockey game, there are always a number of times when a player will be checked or slashed and then turn around and retaliate with a punch or blow of some kind. This action is supposed to result in a minor penalty.

The majority of these instances occur after the whistle.  When the play is stopped you tend to see opposing players come together and bump into each other, which can lead into cross-checks or punches being thrown. 

The surprising rule that tends to confuse the average hockey fan is that the original player to throw this first punch or cross-check will receive an extra minor penalty if the player he punched should decide to punch or cross-check him back, even if the retaliating player was to punch with a greater force than he had used against him.  In this case the original player would receive two Minor penalties (most likely one for “Roughing” and the other for “Roughing After The Whistle”).  The retaliating player would receive One Minor penalty.  Therefore a player that was on the ice at the time of the infraction will be required to serve the extra two minutes assessed to the original player that caused the entire incident.

The key to remember is that the cross-checks and punches will have to be in the opinion of the Referee, serious enough or have enough force to deserve a penalty. Every Referee has a different threshold with regard to the amount of force needed for a penalty to be called, but lets just say that a minor bump or push will not be called as this is by no means an impact penalty.

Note that if the retaliator was to retaliate with a force that would normally call for a Major penalty, then a Major penalty will be assessed plus a Game Misconduct (a teammate of the retaliator that was on the ice at the time of the incident will be required to serve the entire Major penalty).  The original player would receive two (2) Minor penalties and as such the play would resume at 4 skaters against 4 skaters for the next four minutes and then the retaliating player’s team will be short handed for one minute assuming that there were no other penalties up on the clock prior to this incident. 

Roughing: While Play Is In Progress

 There are many instances in a hockey game when players are guilty of unnecessary rough play. It is up to the referee to determine when the rough play is deserving of a penalty.

Roughing, in this case, should not be mistaken with the rule of “Checking To The Head”. Roughing usually occurs when players are standing still or along the boards when two opposing players are battling for the puck. If one of these players throws a punch at his opponent with enough force then a Minor penalty may be assessed by the Referee. 

The prime factor that a Referee looks for is the force of the punch.  If it is just a push against an opponent’s head or a little jab, then it may be overlooked.  The main “Roughing” penalties that most Referee’s don’t want to miss are the punches that cause the opponent’s head to receive a blow that is similar to a boxer trying to knock out his opponent.  When a punch causes a player’s head to snap or you can hear a loud noise from the glove hitting the helmet, there is a very good chance that a penalty for “Roughing” will be called.

Borderline Roughing Penalties

The border line punches that may or may not be called are the punches that seem to have a high degree of force but hardly cause the opponent to even be fazed by the punch.  These punches look like it should have caused damage to the head but the opponent just keeps on playing without showing any ill effects or losing a stride.

Since there doesn’t seem to be any affect on the game as the player that was punched didn’t even lose a stride, it may not be penalized. For example, the punch may have looked bad, but it had no impact on the game.

Nevertheless, these are the punches that tend to cause the most controversy and yelling from the players, coaches and parents.  The key to remember is that when you see one of these punches you must put yourself in the position of the Referee and think whether or not you feel that the assessing of a penalty in this situation will really make a difference in the game.  Since there was no scoring opportunity taken away and the player that was punched is showing no ill effects, then why is it necessary to call a penalty?

When players are punched, they will usually grab their face or fall to the ice if the punch had enough force to cause a potential injury or alter the player’s progress and thus impacting on the outcome of the game.  It is these punches that may be called, but don’t forget about the Game Management principles that come into nearly every decision or judgment made by the Referee.