Hockey 101: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

This post is part of our series – Hockey 101

An Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty is one of those calls that is vague but precise at the same time. While it is easy to describe (any behavior unbecoming of a professional) there are multiple things players can do to be assessed a penalty. With any penalty call, there is leeway given in certain situations; this is especially true for this call.

Actions That Are Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The obvious answer to what makes an athlete unsportsmanlike is general rude behavior. But anyone who has been in a locker room before knows that rudeness is hardly a rare occurrence.

unsportsmanlike conduct
The rare sight of Crosby fighting (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

Those uneducated to the beautiful sport of hockey will call the sport itself barbaric and unsportsmanlike. But there is a beauty and order in the chaos on ice. Those who deviate from that path are those in danger of harming that.

Profane Language

As the video below shows, foul language is not uncommon in the NHL. Sometimes, the unique smiles of NHLers match the vocabulary they often use.

Warning: The following video contains graphic language

YouTube player

As you can see, the refs tend to be very lax when it comes to profanity on the ice. Even the coaches can get away with some sailor talk. This penalty comes when the language persists and becomes a problem and the game is held up because of it.

Dirty Hits and Tactics

Rough stuff is naturally a part of the game. When things do devolve into the scrums and piles, refs keep an eye on the players involved. A glove to the face is okay. But when people start biting and pulling hair, the ref’s arm can go up.

Quarterbacks on the Ice?

Throwing of equipment is illegal, no matter what. When a player is off the ice, it’s even worse. Any player or coach that throws an object onto the ice (from the bench or the penalty box) is assessed at least a minor penalty.

There’s No Whining in Hockey

In baseball, you get tossed from the game for arguing balls and strikes. If you complain to the referee a little too long (especially if you don’t have a letter on your chest) you can be given an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty. Referees need to maintain control of the contest, and when a player tries to show them up, they need to assert themselves.

Unsportsmanlike Fighting

unsportsmanlike conduct
(Icon SMI)

Fighting, is a penalty in and of itself. But the way it is done can lead to more penalties. Instigators and aggressors earn extra conduct penalties. And too many of those can lead to suspensions. In the course of a fight, actions can lead to more penalty time. Intentionally removing an opponent’s helmet is illegal, as is removing the player’s own jersey.

The basic rule of thumb for Unsportsmanlike Conduct? Intentionally breaking the rules of hockey. Don’t do anything momma won’t be proud of. Just don’t do it fellas.


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