Hockey Short Handed

ice hockey short handed

In hockey, a team is short-handed when it is down a player on the ice compared to the other team.

Teams become short-handed when a player on their team commits a penalty and is sent to the penalty box to serve time. The penalty box is located on the boards by each team’s bench.

The penalty clock keeps track of how long a team is short-handed. When the penalty clock expires, the player comes back on the ice and their team returns to full-strength.

Short-Handed Strategy

When a team is short-handed, they must change their strategy to make sure the other team does not score. In the defensive zone, short-handed teams will put less pressure on the puck so they do not get caught out of position. Teams will usually play in a “box” or “diamond” when short-handed, which features players staying in a tight formation to eliminate passing and shooting lanes. When the puck is in the short-handed team’s offensive zone, they will typically not pursue deep into the zone. This is also for the purpose of staying in position and not allowing odd-man rushes.

Short-Handed Goal

If a team scores when they are short-handed, the penalty will not expire and the penalized player will stay in the penalty box. A player is only released from the penalty box when the team on the power play scores a goal. While this is the case for minor penalties, major, misconduct, and match penalties are unreleasable, meaning a player will not be released from the box even if a goal is scored by the other team.


What is the fewest number of players on a hockey team?

A hockey team must have at least three skaters and one goalie on the ice. If a team takes more than two penalties at a time, the third penalty will not start until after one of the penalties has expired.

What happens if a goal is scored while a team is short-handed?

If a goal is scored on a power play, then the team that is short-handed is returned to full-strength. This means the player in the penalty box can return to the game.

Can both teams be short-handed in hockey?

Both teams can be down a player on the ice. However, the definition of “short-handed” is having less players on the ice than the other team. So, it is not possible for both teams to be short-handed.