A rule in hockey that has many different parts is USA Hockey Rule 610: Delaying the Game. A delay of game penalty can be called in a number of different scenarios. But to think of it simply: it is any action which causes a stoppage of play that would not have happened otherwise, including during a scoring opportunity.

USA Hockey Rule 610(a)

The first situation where a delay of penalty can be called is if a goalie:

  • Deliberately freezes the puck along the boards or goal frame for the purpose of delaying the game.
  • Rule 610(a) will result in a minor penalty.

USA Hockey Rule 610(b)

The second time a delay of game penalty can be called is if a goalie:

  • Has an opportunity to play the puck when they are being pressured by an attacking player — but choose to cause a stoppage of play instead.
  • The goalie is allowed to cover the puck while playing goal, but is not allowed to do anything else that will make the puck unplayable “without an immediate scoring opportunity.”
  • Rule 610(b) will result in a minor penalty for the goalkeeper.

USA Hockey Rule 610(c)

The third circumstance where a delay of game might be called is if any player (including a goalie):

  • Deliberately shoots or bats the puck outside the playing area, including after a stoppage of play.
  • Rule 610(b) will result in a minor penalty for the player or goalkeeper.

This is one of the most common circumstances you will see, especially in an NHL game. If the ref sees a player shoot the puck into the stands, they can call this penalty.

USA Hockey Rule 610(d)

USA Hockey Rule 610(d) says that a minor penalty will be assessed for any goalie who:

  • Shoots the puck directly outside the playing area (and not deflected in any way)
    “Except when the puck inadvertently leaves the playing area in a location that is not protected by glass or screen.”
  • Rule 610(d) will result in a minor penalty for the goalkeeper.

USA Hockey Rule 610(e)

The next reason a delay of game might be called is:

  • When a goal frame has been intentionally displaced.
  • Play stops any time a goal frame is displaced — which is why it can be called a penalty if a player (goalie or skater) does this intentionally to stop play.
  • If the team defending their goal displaces their goal intentionally during a breakaway, “or deprives the attacking team of an immediate scoring opportunity,” the ref is allowed to call either a penalty shot and/or minor penalty for the attacking team.
  • If the goal frame is displaced intentionally in the last two minutes of a game, the ref is also allowed to call either a penalty shot and/or minor penalty for the attacking team.
  • If the goal frame is displaced when there is no defending goalie on the ice, and the ref believes the puck would have entered the goal, “thereby preventing an obvious and imminent goal – a goal shall be awarded in lieu of the penalty shot.”

USA Hockey Rule 610(f)

Rule 601(f) says that:

  • If a goalie or youth hockey player removes their helmet or facemask during a breakaway, a penalty shot and/or minor penalty for the attacking team shall be called.
  • If a goalie or adult hockey player removes their helmet or facemask during the last two minutes of the game or during overtime, a penalty shot and/or minor penalty for the attacking team shall be called.

USA Hockey Rule 610(g)

A goalie can be assessed a minor penalty if he:

  • Drops the puck into his pads.
  • Drops the puck onto the goal net.
  • Deliberately piles up snow or obstacles near the goal that could prevent the scoring of a goal (in the ref’s opinion).

USA Hockey Rule 610(h)

A bench minor penalty will be assessed to any team who does not put the correct number of players on the ice, and:

  • Starts playing after being warned by the referee.
  • Causes any delay by making additional substitutions.
  • Attempts to delay the game in any other way.

Falling on the puck

If you fall or lie on a puck, it is sometimes called Delay of Game, but it is actually its own rule: USA Hockey Rule 614. The rule says it is a penalty if any player, other than a goalie, “who deliberately falls on or gathers the puck into his body, deeming the puck unplayable and causing a stoppage of play.”

Read the entire rule for falling on the puck here.

Adult hockey rules: Delay of game

There are many pieces of the Delaying the Game penalty, but the easiest way to think of it is any action that will cause stoppage of play that would not have naturally occurred otherwise. The most common time you will see this called is when a player shoots a puck out of the playing area, but there are many other times it can also be called.

Learning what not to do will help you avoid this penalty in the future.