Penalty Shots and Hockey Shootouts
The penalty shot—a one-on-one battle between a player and the opposing goalie—is one of the more exciting things that can happen in a hockey game. The skater with the puck must use a combination of skill, will, and (sometimes) power
to get the puck into the net, as the goalie does everything in his power to make just one stop. For each player, the pressure can be intense because their teammates can’t help; it’s either a goal or no goal.
NHL Penalty Shot Rules
A penalty shot is usually awarded when a player on a breakaway is fouled by a player on the other team and thus is deprived of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. According to NHL penalty shot rules, in order for an official to award a penalty in
this circumstance, four conditions must be met:
- The player on a breakaway must be beyond his own blue line;
- The infraction must have been committed from behind;
- The fouled player must have been in control of the puck, with a clear chance to score; and
- There must have been no opposing players between the puck-carrier and the opposing goal.
However, a penalty shot may also be awarded if the goalie intentionally dislodges the net during a breakaway, or if a player falls on or picks up the puck in the goal crease.
After the foul is called, the official blows his whistle and points to the center circle to signal a penalty shot. If the foul would normally incur a minor penalty, the guilty player does not go to the penalty box. However, if a major or match penalty is called for, the offending player will serve the penalty after the penalty shot.
When the foul was committed on a specific player—as on a breakaway—that player must take the penalty shot. However, in the case of goal-crease infractions or net dislodging, the captain of the non-offending team can choose any player
who is already on the ice to take the penalty. The team that committed the foul can bring in a new goalie to defend against the penalty shot, but that goalie must remain in the game until the next stoppage of play.
Penalty Shot Procedure
Before a penalty shot is taken, the players from both teams must move to the ice in front of their respective benches to stay out of the way. The referee places the puck in the face-off spot in center circle and signals the penalty-shot-taker to
begin. Once the player touches the puck, he must keep it moving toward the goal line at all times until the shot is taken. The play is considered complete once a shot is taken or the puck crosses the goal line. There are no rebounds, except if
the puck strikes the post or crossbar and then rebounds off the goalie and into the net.
The goalie must remain on the goal line until the offensive player touches the puck. From that point, the goalie may do anything to stop the puck , except throw his stick or any other object.
Since the 2005-2006 season, the NHL has used the shootout to determine the winner of a regular-season game tied at the end of overtime. (In the postseason, shootouts are replaced by full, 20-minute sudden-death overtime periods.) The team that wins
the shootout is awarded two points, the same as if they had won in regulation. However, a team that loses in a shootout is awarded one point, rather than zero points for a loss in regulation.
The basic shootout consists of three rounds of penalty shots, using the same rules that govern in-game penalty shots. The goalie for each team defends the same goal where he played the third period, and the teams alternate taking penalty shots.
If the teams are still tied after each team has taken three penalty shots, the shootout goes to sudden death. The longest shootout in NHL history, between the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals, went an amazing 20 rounds. (The Panthers won.)
The penalty-takers in a shootout are chosen by the coach from all eligible players. Any player serving a major or game misconduct penalty at the end of the game cannot participate.
Penalty shots and shootouts offer moments of intense drama that are really exciting to watch or to participate in. NHL penalty-shot takers score about 33 percent of the time, and sudden-death shootouts are real nail-biters—which is a lot better
than an anticlimactic tie.