When you go to your first hockey game, you will undoubtedly hear the fan that we all hate. The guy who screams “fight!” at every single player pileup. Hint: don’t be that guy. But in those scrums, the refs all understand that there is going to be some shoves and pushing. It is a roughing penalty when that shoving and pushing turns into punches or something more violent.
It’s Roughing, Not a Fight
You’ll know a fight when you see one. The entire game stops when a fight starts and the players must both drop their gloves. A roughing penalty almost always takes place after the whistle has already blown. When a goalie freezes the puck (especially in the postseason), opposing players anywhere near the netminder are quickly cleared out. It is a known guideline of being a teammate that nobody gets near your goalie without paying a price.
The scrums that follow are the usual. Any seasoned fan understands that aspect of the game. But as soon as a real punch is thrown by any participant, it is considered a roughing penalty. A lot of the time, the first punch is not penalized but the retaliation is. Punches are the easily spotted part of roughing.
So, to be clear, rubbing your glove on an opponent’s face, shoving with two hands, saying some nasty words, and even laying on top of another player to keep him from getting up is allowed (to a certain point). But throw a punch and you’ll get a two minute vacation in the Sin Bin.