Guiding Your Hockey Team to Avoid Penalties

Hockey penalties are part of the game. Watch a hockey game, and you undoubtedly see players checking for position with the puck. Some fans sit in anticipation of a bench-clearing brawl. Truth be told, hockey is a rough sport and some penalties are unavoidable. The difference between a match that gets out of control and an untimely penalty is the level of sportsmanship and adherence to rules exhibited by a team.

Set Standards
Occasionally, it's difficult to avoid a penalty in hockey due to the fast-paced nature of the game. But the best way to teaching your team to avoid penalties is to explain the rules and be firm in letting them know they should not break the rules. Setting expectations and developing a team vision of sportsmanship keeps unnecessary penalties from being assessed.

Respect the Crease
Only the goaltender may enter the crease unless a player is controlling the puck by taking a shot or carrying it into the crease. Teach young players to avoid entering the crease unless they are attempting a shot. It's also important to explain why they should not make contact with the goalie. Contact on the goalie is often construed as interference and results in a penalty.  Respecting the crease should minimize possible penalties that are typical for this area of the rink.

Beware of Minor Infractions
Some of the actions associated with a hockey game are tolerated to an extent. But once a player crosses the line, a game turns into an ugly match. Minor infractions that can result in a penalty include:

  • Cross checking - A player skates into an opponent while holding his hockey stick with both hands in front of him.
  • Hooking - A player impedes another player's movement using his hockey stock.
  • Slashing - A player hits another player with a hockey stick. Unless the hit is intentional, most officials may choose to let this pass.

Avoid Violations
Several actions can draw a severe penalty from the officials. Depending on the referee's interpretation of the situation, a major penalty, misconduct penalty, or suspension may result.

  • Boarding - An opposing team member checks a player and forces him into the boards along the side of the rink.
  • Charging - Skating toward a player from a long distance before checking the player is considered a charge. It's a violent move that should draw a penalty.
  • High-sticking - A player carries hockey stick above normal height of opponent's shoulder and hits or threatens the opponent with it. This is a minor penalty unless an injury results.
  • Elbowing - A player elbows an opponent.
  • Head-butting - A player hits another player with his head.

The bottom line for coaches and parents is to promote and teach respect for rules as well as good sportsmanship.

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