The penalty box is an area or "box" where ice hockey players are sent when they are given a penalty call from a referee. Generally, teams can not replace other team members that are sent to the penalty box, therefore needing to play "down a man." Almost all penalties send players to the penalty box, unless it is a misconduct penalty.
Time in the penalty box ranges based on the type of penalty that is called. When 3 or more players are serving penalties in the box, the team must continue without them and will not be allowed to add more players until the penalty box time is over. Goaltenders can never enter the penalty box; another team member will take their penalty minutes instead.
A misconduct penalty is when a referee calls a penalty on a player and ejects that person from the game immediately. Although a referee can also decide to call a misconduct penalty on one player, and award the opposing team a penalty shot.
A penalty shot is when one team loses a scoring opportunity due to a penalty from an opposing player on the other team. The team rewarded the penalty shot then had the opportunity to try and score a goal with no defenders except the goalkeeper.
Whenever a team has a member in the penalty box serving a two minute penalty, it is considered a "power play" for the other team. If the opposing team scores during the "power play" time then the rest of the penalty time for the player is discarded and they can return to the game. If the player has a 4 minute penalty and the previous situation occurs, then two minutes are taken away from the penalty box time constraint. Finally, for a 5 minute penalty, no time is taken away if a goal is scored during a power play.
A major penalty is also classified as a "five minute penalty," the offending player must serve the entire five minute penalty in the box no matter how many times the opposing team scores. Major penalties include: butt-ending, checking from behind, fighting and instigating, spearing, holding/ grasping the face mask, pushing off of an opponent with a skate, leaving the bench during an altercation, and any minor penalty deemed as intentional to harm another player.
The men who sit in the penalty box with ice hockey players are known as penalty box ushers. These men open the doors for the players serving their penalties out in the box and usher players in and out of the box. Penalty box ushers also track the time of each player's penalty to notify them as to when they can rejoin the game. Not all penalties are put onto the score board so the ushers are the main source of knowledge for players serving their time.
A 10 minute penalty is called a misconduct penalty which results in the removal of a player. This removal of a player can only be of players on the ice other than the goalkeeper. The penalty will last for 10 minutes and is met with the substitution of another player onto the ice. The players serving the 10 minute penalty will remain in the penalty box until their time is fully served and the game has reached a stopping point.
When an ice hockey goalie gets a penalty, they will never go into the penalty box. Yes, a goalie will still be given penalty minutes by a referee but those minutes will be allocated to another player instead. Typically the team's captain will serve the penalty minutes in the box or the goaltender will face a penalty shot in the certain case of a 5 minute major penalty. Another player who was on the ice when the goalie was given the penalty can also serve the time in the box for the goaltender.