A penalty in ice hockey is a punishment for an infringement of the rules.

Penalties are a part of hockey.  The physicality and the intensity of the game inevitably results in some infractions.

In almost every period of every game penalties are called.

The referees can call a penalty for any one of the following 31 infractions:

  • Charging
  • Boarding
  • Cross-checking
  • Elbowing
  • High-sticking
  • Holding
  • Hooking
  • Interference
  • Misconduct
  • Slashing
  • Roughing
  • Spearing
  • Tripping
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct
  • Abuse of official
  • Attempt to injure
  • Biting
  • Butt ending or stabbing
  • Playing with a broken stick
  • Checking from behind
  • Delay of game
  • Diving or embellishment
  • Eye gouging
  • Fighting
  • Goal tender interference
  • Goal tender leaving the crease
  • Head-butting
  • Holding the stick
  • Illegal check to the head
  • Illegal equipment
  • Joining a fight
  • Kicking
  • Kneeing
  • Leaving the penalty box
  • Throwing the stick
  • Too many men on the ice

In addition to minor penalties which last 2 minutes, there are double minor penalties (4 min), major penalties (5 min), match penalties (5 min plus ejection from the game), misconducts (10 min in the penalty box), and game misconducts (player ejected from the game).

Bottom line, penalties are a part of hockey.

Why, you may ask, am I talking about penalties.

Well, the answer is that something happened to me the other night that has never happened to me before.  I went to a hockey game where there was not one penalty called in the entire game.  Yes, you heard me correctly.   Not one penalty in the three, twenty minute periods of play.  A full 60 minutes of play.

In all my years I have never seen this before.  And I have seen a lot of hockey in my lifetime.  I played hockey in high school, college and after college in adult leagues.  In addition, I am a hockey fan.  More accurately I am a hockey fanatic.  I loved playing hockey and now I love to watch hockey.  Often I watch it on TV, but I also go to a National Hockey League (NHL) game whenever I can.  I used to have season tickets when Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Los Angeles Kings and I was working and living in LA.

Now, I have season tickets to the Coachella Valley Firebirds hockey team, which makes its home in Palm Desert California.  They are the triple A farm team for the NHL Seattle Kraken hockey club.  The Firebirds in its first year of existence last year went to the Calder Cup finals (the equivalent of the Stanley Cup for the 32 teams in the American Hockey League), and this year has the second best record of all 32 teams as it prepares for the post season Calder Cup competition.  It is really good hockey.

A hockey game without a penalty!  Holy cow!

When I walked out of the hockey game that had no penalties I must admit I was in kind of a daze.  I could not believe it.

The first thing I did as I was walking to the my car in the parking lot was to look to the sky and check whether it was a full moon night.  in my experience, strange things happen on full moon nights.

The next thing I did, when I got to my car, unlocked it, and opened the door was to pinch myself.  did I really experience a hockey game with absolutely no penalties?

Then, as I started the car, I turned on the radio to 106.9 FM, the station that carries the Firebirds’ hockey games.  I did this to hear the post game wrap up.

The color commentator for the Firebirds is Grant Fuhr, the phenomenal goalie for the Gretzky lead Edmonton Oilers in the 80’s.  Grant Fuhr is the first black man to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  I thought that maybe Grant would have some comments about the fact that there were no penalties in the game.

I had the privilege of meeting Grant Fuhr a week earlier, when I was invited to attend a special viewing of the 2018 documentary movie made about his career and life, called Making Coco. The Grant Fuhr Story.  Grant stood for pictures with me and other attendees, as well as took questions from the audience after the showing of the film.

However, as hard as I listened for some commentary about the fact that the game had no penalties, I heard none.

When I got home, I did some research to see if there had ever been a NHL game with no penalties.  Apparently during the 20 years between 1980 and 2000, no game was played without any penalties. However, on April 9, 2000 the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings played a game with no penalties.  The next one I could find was some 13 years later.   The NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators on October 12, 2013 is documented as the first NHL regular-season game to have had no penalties called against either team since 2000. I also found a study that concluded that the average NHL game has 11.8 penalties per game.  Needless to say, it’s a significant rarity in professional hockey to have a game without penalties.

The other question that you may ask is what has to happen to have a hockey game with no penalties.  There has to be:

  1. A High Level of Discipline: Respect for the rules of the game. Players were able to maintain their composure and avoid committing infractions despite the fast-paced and physical nature of hockey.
  2. Clean Play: The game was played cleanly, without resorting to illegal tactics or overly aggressive behavior. This can be seen as a positive reflection on the sportsmanship and skill of the players involved.
  3. Skillful Execution: In a penalty-free game, players have more opportunities to showcase their skills without interruptions or disruptions. It allows for smoother gameplay and can highlight the technical proficiency of the athletes involved.
  4. Fair Officiating: The lack of penalties may indicate that the officials maintained consistent and fair standards throughout the game, effectively managing potential conflicts and enforcing the rules without bias.  Or, some would argue, the fact that there were no penalties indicates that the referees missed calling several obvious penalties.

Overall, a hockey game without penalties provides a unique lens through which to appreciate the sport, emphasizing discipline, skill, and fair play, in addition to its physicality and aggression.

Another reason why this hockey game with no penalties was such a shock to me was that my nickname in school was “Penalty.”  You can understand why an individual whose nickname was Penalty while growing up playing hockey has a difficult time experiencing a hockey game without any penalties.  Penalties were, and apparently are, part of my DNA.

You can also understand why I had to write about this – a hockey game with no penalties.


3 thoughts on “Penalty”

  1. Brought back many memories Neil. In the 1980’s I had Oilers season tickets in the 4th row of Northlands Coliseum (the arena built by Peter Batoni and Pat Bowlen). Yes Pat Bowlen who was an Edmontonian before he bought the Broncos from Edgar Kaiser and moved to Denver which I helped finance while my time with Bank of BC.
    My son and I were at the game where the Oilers won their first Stanley Cup.
    Anyhow, later in my career I golfed with the likes of Gretzky, Anderson and Fuhr in many charity tournaments. Grant was a superb golfer and had he not played hockey he could have made it to the PGA. He had a habit of buying new clubs every year and my pal Alex who played regularly with Grant at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club Grant’s bought his year old clubs and has kept every one of them last I checked. Wanna buy a set of Grant’s old clubs, let me know I’ll hook you up.
    I also have many interesting stories to relate you about Bowlen as well as the Oilers that could regale you for hours, call me sometime. I have pictures too!

  2. Neil….if i recall correctly, when you were a collegiant hockey player playing for the the “Purple Cows”, you were known as “penalty” Peterson as you were famous for having penalties called against you for rough behavior.

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