What Is A Power Play In Ice Hockey?

What Is A Power Play In Ice Hockey?

What is a power play? A power play is when one team has an advantage in numbers.

Sep 8, 2022 by FloHockey Staff
What Is A Power Play In Ice Hockey?

A power play is strange when you think about sports more broadly. Most popular team sports, like basketball, volleyball and football, don't have a power play, or a player-advantage due to penatly, at all. 

In hockey, a power play is when one team has an advantage in numbers. 

The team enjoys having greater manpower for a certain time, in most instances having a one- or two-person advantage over their opponent. This means that instead of having six players on ice for each team, one side only has four or five active players.

How Does A Power Play In Hockey Happen?

In ice hockey, a power play happens when one or two players from a team commit an infraction or a penalty. The player who has been penalized will be obliged to spend time out of the ice rink. The penalized player, or players, are sent to the penalty box, or sin bin.

Moreover, the team that incurred the penalty is not allowed to call in a substitute. Instead, they are to play out the penalized time short-handed, giving the opposing team the advantage in numbers, or a power play.

The Rules Of A Hockey Power Play

There are a few rules surrounding power plays in ice hockey. Below, are some of the most important ones to know.

Minor Vs. Major Penalties

A power play can last for either a two-minute or a five-minute period. The duration is based on the type of penalty committed.

A minor penalty will result in the player sitting in the box for two minutes. Meanwhile, committing a major penalty gives the opposing team five minutes of power play.

For a minor penalty, the short-handed team can get its player back on the ice either when the time runs out, or the team on the power play scores a goal. However, the short-handed team scoring a goal will not get their player out of the penalty box.

For a major penalty, the team needs to wait out the full five minutes, regardless of whether their opponent lands a goal.


Icing infractions still are called during a power play, with one exception. 

Only teams that are down one or two players are allowed to ice the puck. This means they can shoot, hit or deflect the puck from their half of the rink all the way to the other team's side, without it being touched by anyone else. 

Due to the exception, short-handed teams can use icing for penalty killing or running their penalty time to zero, while preventing their opponent from scoring.


Power plays can, and do, happen in overtime. However, there is a slight difference in rules during the NHL regular season, where overtime is played with three players on each team.

If a penalty was called during overtime, the team on the power play will get a player added for the infraction. This can result in either a 4-on-3 or a 5-on-3 power play.

The Bottom Line

Power plays are tricky situations for the short-handed team. However, these situations often result in some of the most exciting plays in ice hockey.