Hockey is a contact sport played on the ice so it is important for the National Hockey League to specify guidelines and rules for what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. The guidelines for unacceptable actions in hockey are referred to as unsportsmanlike conduct, which can be found under Rule 75 in the NHL Rulebook. Rule 75 explains that anyone involved in the teams, including the all of the players and coaches, are responsible for their behavior at all times, and must take precautionary measures to ensure that disorderly behavior is not exhibited. Referees make the decision of whether players are abiding by the rules or playing unsportsmanlike.
Unsportsmanlike conduct includes either offensive verbal and/or physical gestures directed towards another hockey player. Such actions include physical altercations, biting, hair-pulling, trying to take off an opponent's head gear, or throwing objects onto the ice rink.
A personal foul in hockey is any time a player violates any of the rules according to the NHL Rulebook deemed by the referee. Usually, personal fouls come from players being too aggressive on the ice, and potentially putting other players in danger. This includes elbowing, interference, cross checking, tripping, etc. Depending on how bad the foul is, the player is given a penalty. Having a player conduct in an unsportsmanlike way falls under the personal fouls category, but not all personal fouls are deemed acting in an unsportsmanlike manner.
If a player receives the game misconduct penalty, the referee must report all of the foul actions from the player to the Commissioner of the League to determine further disciplinary action. Players that are given the game misconduct penalty are also subject to additional discipline stipulated under Rule 28. Rule 28 states that the Commissioner of the League has the authority to investigate any actions and the result of the investigation may lead to fines, or suspension from playing.
If a player is found guilty of showing a display of unsportsmanlike conduct, then the referee must access what penalty to give to the player. The different penalties are based on the severity of the unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalties start with a minor penalty, then a bench minor penalty, followed by a misconduct penalty, and the highest grade of penalty, the game misconduct penalty.
Taunting has been officially established as an action that would receive a penalty beginning in the 1992-93 season. Taunting falls under the Zero Tolerance Policy, where USA Hockey has decided to implement certain restrictions to have a more enjoyable experience for all participants involved. Not only does this include receiving penalties to the players and coaches, but also to the officials and to the spectators. USA Hockey has a rule stating that if spectators are disruptive to the hockey game and to the other spectators around, the hockey game will be paused by the officials and those disruptive spectators will be removed from the stadium before resuming the game.