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A player who receives a match penalty is ejected. A match penalty is imposed for deliberately injuring another player as well as attempting to injure another player. Many other penalties automatically become match penalties if injuries actually occur: under NHL rules, butt-ending, goalies using blocking glove to the face of another player, head-butting, kicking, punching an unsuspecting player, spearing, and tape on hands during altercation[1] must be called as a match penalty if injuries occur; under IIHF rules, kneeing[2] and checking to the head or neck area[3] must be called as a match penalty if injuries occur.

The team of the offending player must choose a substitute player to place in the box from any of the eligible players, excluding the goaltender. The substitute serves a five-minute penalty similar to a major penalty (except in overtime, goals scored against the penalized team do not end the penalty early). If the goaltender receives a match penalty, another player serves the time so that the team may immediately insert a backup. In most cases, offending players are suspended from the next game their team plays, and often face hearings with the possibility of a lengthier ban. In the NHL, a match penalty and a game misconduct are virtually identical in application. However, a match penalty carries a larger fine, and the offending player is suspended indefinitely until the Commissioner rules on the issue.[4]

In NCAA hockey, a similar penalty called a game disqualification results in automatic suspension for the number of games equal to the number of game disqualification penalties the player has been assessed in that season.

For statistical purposes, match penalty is counted as ten minutes in NHL and as twenty-five minutes under the IIHF rules.

Officials signaling

The signal for the call is the same a a misconduct penalty. The referee taps both hands on his hips repeatedly.


  1. Reference Table 8 – Summary of Match Penalties, NHL, 2013, p. 132-133
  2. Rule 538 – Kneeing, IIHF, 2010, pp. 81
  3. Rule 540 – Checking to the Head or Neck Area, IIHF, 2010, pp. 83
  4. NHL Rules - Rule 21 - Match Penalties
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