PIM in Hockey – What Does PIMs Mean in Hockey

Posted on July 19, 2023 by Dan Kent

If you're new to hockey, all the different acronyms and abbreviations might confuse you.

One of the most confusing ones is PIM, which we will review in this article. Along with this, we'll discuss the different types of penalties and some interesting statistics and data in the National Hockey League.

What does PIM mean in the NHL?

PIM stands for Penalty Infraction Minutes. This is the total amount of minutes in penalties, not amount of penalties a hockey player has. This is a common misconception. If a player is assigned one two-minute minor penalty, their total PIMs are two, not one. If they're assigned a five-minute major, their PIMs would be 5.

The different types of penalties in hockey

There are numerous types of penalties in hockey, leading to different amounts of PIMs. Let's break them down.

The two-minute minor

The two-minute minor penalty is one of the most basic infractions in hockey. It can be things like hooking, roughing, tripping, high-sticking, delay of game, or interference. When a referee calls a two-minute minor penalty, the player must sit in the penalty box for a maximum of two minutes. The reason I say maximum is that the opposing team gets a power play due to the two-minute minor, and if they score a goal, the player who committed the infraction is let out of the box.

The two-minute minor penalty results in a player accruing 2 PIMs. Even if the opposing team scores on the powerplay, the player still gets 2 PIMs added to their stats.

The double-minor

The double minor penalty is quite simple. It is just two minor penalties combined into one. A double minor is often assessed when a player has committed a more severe infraction. One of the main penalties called a double minor is a high-stick that results in the player bleeding.

Because the double minor is just two minor penalties assessed at once, they act as separate minor penalties for goals scored. For example, suppose a player is assessed a double minor for high-sticking, and the team scores within the first two minutes of that penalty; the player will remain in the box. In that case, the penalty clock will be adjusted to two minutes, and a fresh minor penalty begins next whistle.

The five-minute major

Major penalties are reserved for some of the most severe infractions. Think of penalties like boarding where the player is injured, checking from behind, headbutting, spearing, butt-ending, and possibly even charging if the referee decides to call it. As the name states, a five-minute major penalty is five minutes in length.

A five-minute major penalty can be assessed to practically any infraction if the referee determines there was malicious intent behind it. For example, a blatant interference call intending to injure a player could be deemed a 5-minute major.

Players who fight are also assessed five-minute majors.

The main difference between a minor and a major penalty is that if the opposing team scores when a team is serving a minor penalty, that penalty is over, and the player can return to the ice. With a major penalty, there is no relief. A team can score one, two, three, or even four goals over that five-minute timespan. It is a potentially devastating penalty to take.

The 10-minute misconduct

The ten-minute misconduct is a unique penalty in hockey and the longest penalty you can take. Even though it is the largest penalty you can take regarding PIMs, it doesn't result in the non-offending team getting a power play. Keep in mind the referees can call a minor or major penalty along with a ten-minute misconduct, in which the team must serve the penalty and be short-handed. You often hear this called a "ten and two."

An example of this would be unsportsmanlike conduct in which the player yells at the referee. The referee may assess a two-minute minor to the player and a ten-minute misconduct. Someone must serve the penalty for the player issued the misconduct, and they are not allowed to return to the ice for ten minutes.

The game misconduct 

Game misconduct penalties are often referred to as match penalties. The difference between a ten-minute misconduct and a game misconduct is that a player can return after ten minutes versus being ejected for the entire game.

Along with a game misconduct, a referee can assess a minor or major penalty in which the team will have to kill off. The most common term in this situation would be "five and a game," meaning the player has been assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

The penalty shot

The penalty shot is unique because it doesn't result in any PIMs allocated to a player. Suppose you trip a player on a breakaway, and they cannot get a quality shot away. In that case, the referee will award that player a penalty shot.

In this instance, you do not go to the penalty box. Instead, your opponents get to send the player you tripped in one-on-one with the goalie in an attempt to score. Whether they score or not, the offending player does not serve any time in the penalty box.

Can the goaltender take a penalty?

Yes, a goalie can take a penalty in hockey. They can take any penalty a player does, whether tripping, high sticking, delay of game, or cross-checking. However, the goaltender doesn't have to serve the penalty. A goaltender could only be removed from his crease if they took a misconduct penalty.

When a goalie gets a penalty, such as a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass, the coach must designate one player to serve the penalty for the goaltender.

Are penalty minutes good in hockey?

Because penalty minutes are a sign your team is taking penalties and playing the game short-handed, no, penalty minutes are not a good thing in hockey.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that all teams that rack up a lot of penalty minutes are bad. Many aggressive teams with strong penalty-killing abilities can punish the other team with physical, chippy play and get away with it because they can kill off the penalties themselves.

In addition to this, penalty minutes are a good thing in some fantasy hockey leagues, as they can collect points for your team. But generally, outside of fantasy leagues that count them, you don't want your players to take penalties to increase the team's PIMs.

Who has the most penalty minutes in NHL history?

The player with the most penalty minutes in the NHL is Dave "Tiger" Williams. Throughout 962 games, he accrued 3,971 penalty minutes. The next closest is Dale Hunter, who collected over 3,565 penalty minutes.

Who has the most PIMs in an NHL season?

The player with the most penalty minutes in one season is Dave Schultz. He had 472 penalty minutes playing for the Philadelphia Flyers in the seventies. He was often nicknamed "The Hammer" for his bruising ability and aggressive style of play.

Most of the time, you will see goons or enforcers collect the highest PIM during a season. However, some very skilled players take penalties as well.

What is the NHL record for PIMs in a game?

The record for most penalty minutes in a single game is 419. The game occurred in Philadelphia on March 5, 2004, as the Flyers took on the Ottawa Senators.

Jason Spezza and Donald Brashear were assets 35 and 34 penalty minutes, respectively.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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