A hockey penalty shot occurs when a player has a clear breakaway and is fouled by the opposing team, restricting the breakaway player from a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
The player must be in clear possession of the puck with a visible opportunity to potentially score on the goalie. Every player must sit on their own benches while only the player who was fouled has a chance to score on the goalie, with no defenders. A penalty shot may also be awarded if the goalie dislodges the net during an opposing team breakaway.
The player who was on the breakaway starts with the puck in the face-off position, then skates forward and has one opportunity to shoot the puck at the goalie. Players will typically try to deke out, or fake out, the goalie when trying to score. The penalty shot procedure is identical to what happens in a sudden-death shootout, when teams go back and forth taking penalty shots to determine a winner of a tied game.
The player who was fouled during the breakaway will always take the penalty shot. The penalty to the breakaway player must have happened from behind, and no opposing players can be between the goalie and the player who was fouled. If the player who was fouled was injured on the play and cannot take the shot, the captain of the team may elect someone who was on the ice during the play to take the penalty shot.
Penalty shots were introduced in the 1934-1935 hockey season after an incident between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal forward Georges Mantha had broken away down the ice when he was hauled over by Toronto player Bill Thoms. Hockey fans and commentators also believed the penalty shot would be a great way to make the game a little more exciting, since 1934 had been a rough year associated with the Great Depression.
In a penalty shot, the puck is placed in the center ice face-off area. Once the player taking the penalty shot moves it, the puck must stay in a forward motion until either going in the net, being stopped by the goaltender, or crossing the opponent's goal line. As soon as the player shoots the puck, the player cannot rebound or touch the puck.
Over the past 10 years, about 33% of the total penalty shots were successful. Out of 531 attempts, 178 players were able to score on the goalie. Some goalies are much better at defending penalty shots than others, due to their ability to understand player dekes and moves. Other goalies struggle because it is much different than regulation play defending.