What Is A Penalty Shot In Hockey?

Ice Hockey Penalty Shots

A hockey penalty shot is awarded when there is a clear goal scoring opportunity denied by an illegal action. 

A penalty shot is most commonly awarded 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. A penalty shot may also be awarded if the goalie dislodges the net during an opposing team breakaway or a player besides the goalie covers the puck in the crease.

During a penalty shot, every player must sit on their own benches, while only the player who was fouled has a chance to score on the goalie. The player who was on the breakaway starts with the puck in the center circle, then skates forward and has one opportunity to shoot the puck at the goalie. Players will typically try to deke out the goalie when trying to score. The penalty shot procedure is identical to what happens in a shootout, where teams go back and forth taking penalty shots to determine a winner of a tied game.

Referee Signal

To signal that a penalty shot is being awarded, the referee will blow their whistle after the offending team touches the puck and point their non-whistle arm toward center ice. Since there are no players going to the penalty box when a penalty shot is awarded, the referee can make this signal from anywhere on the ice. However, the referee will skate to the scorer’s box and verbally inform the off-ice officials that a penalty shot is taking place after the whistle has been blown.


  • A player trips an opponent from behind who is on a breakaway, denying them a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
  • A goalie sees that a breakaway is taking place and proceeds to dislodge their net.
  • A player besides the goalie covers the puck in their own crease.


Who plays during a penalty shot in hockey?

The player who was fouled during the breakaway will always take the penalty shot. 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 that result from a dislodged net or covered puck can be taken by any member of the team.

When were penalty shots introduced in hockey?

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.

What is the criteria for a penalty shot in hockey?

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.

What percentage of penalty shots in hockey are made?

Between 2009 and 2019, about 34% 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.