What is a Power Play in Hockey? (Explained for Beginners)

Without a doubt, there are many rules in hockey that you should learn if you want to become an expert. One thing you might be wondering while watching a game is why people are cheering for something they call a “power play”.

So what is a power play in hockey exactly? A power play occurs when a penalty is called against a team. The penalized team loses a player who is sent to the penalty box. This results in a power play (otherwise known as a man advantage) as the opposing team has one more skater on the ice than their opponents. As you can imagine, this is quite an advantage to gain as it leads to more scoring opportunities.

So it’s not a regular hockey play?

power play in hockey
The power play in hockey is one of the more unique aspect of the sport.

In other sports, a play is what the team does during active periods of the game. In hockey, players do make plays which usually involve passing, shooting, or stick handling the puck. But, these aren’t power plays, they’re just plays.

The entire time that one team has an advantage (2 man advantage is the max) is the power play. So essentially, the power play is a term that designates time, not an actual action.

How Long Do Power Plays Last?

what is a power play?Power plays can last for two (minor) or five minutes (major).

When a player commits a minor penalty (such as Interference, Slashing, or Tripping, they will have to sit in the penalty box for a maximum of 2-minutes.

As you may have noticed, I mentioned a maximum of 2 minutes. There are a few instances that will end a minor penalty early, which include:

  1. When the time runs out on the power play
  2. If the team with the advantage is penalized
  3. If the team with the advantage scores

On the other hand if the penalty is a major one, then the power play will last for the entire five minutes or until the game ends. If the team with the advantage scores, the power play continues.

With both major and minor penalties, if the team with the penalty scores (otherwise called a shorthanded goal), the penalized player stays in the box until the power play is completed.

Icing and Power Plays

The rules of the game slightly change, especially when it comes to icing the puck.

Because one team is shorthanded, icing is allowed for that team only. Icing is when a player shoots the puck all the way across the ice without any players intercepting it. The puck can cross the center line and goal line. In regular even strength play, icing stops the game and the offending team is sent back to their own defensive zone.

Penalties and Punishments

In order to have a power play, one team has to receive a penalty that requires a player to sit out for two or five minutes. There are different types of penalties and punishments.

Minor Penalty

The most common penalty in hockey is the minor penalty, which puts a player in the penalty box for two minutes. This leaves that player’s team with four skaters and the goalie. More than one minor can be assessed, so it is not unheard of for two players to sit in the box consecutively.

If a goal is scored with two players in the box, the first player to be penalized is allowed to return to the ice.

Double Minor

Another type of penalty is a double minor.

This penalty gives players four minutes in the box and it is called when more violent penalties are committed. One such example if a high-sticking penalty in which the offending player draws blood during the penalty. The power play continues until the four minutes are up or two goals are scored.


power play in hockeyMajor penalties also require players to sit in the box. When these are called, power plays last for five minutes. They are usually called during fighting, but if both teams are called on it, then neither team gets a power play.

Match Penalty

A match penalty results in two punishments. The first is a five-minute power play, the second is that the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. This type of penalty is given when a player intentionally attempts to injure a player. It is given whether or not the injury happens.

Misconduct and Game Misconduct

A misconduct is like a match penalty, but without the ejection. Instead, the player has to leave the ice for 10 minutes.

There is another misconduct penalty, called a game misconduct. In this penalty, the player is ejected, but the team is not penalized with a power play. Usually, players who get game misconduct calls get fined and they are often suspended for more than that game. Misconduct penalties are usually called when players behave poorly verbally or emotionally.

Penalty Shots

power play in hockeyThe alternative to the power play is the penalty shot.

These aren’t awarded as much as power plays, but when they do, the team that gets the shot has a serious advantage. This type of penalty is given when the referee deems that a scoring opportunity was taken away.

Penalty shots are exciting to watch because the player who was going to score faces off against the opposing goalie. The one-on-one matchup shows the skills of both players.

Conclusion on the Power Play in Hockey

As you can see there are many different penalty types that exist in the game of hockey. It is not uncommon for a team to commit 3 to 6 infractions in a game allowing the other team approximately 6 to 12 minutes with at least a one man advantage. Power plays can turn a game completely around, so players need to be careful on the ice otherwise they put their teammates at a huge disadvantage!