There are many signals used by referees (on-ice official with orange armband) and linesmen (on-ice official without orange armband). In Australia, most games are refereed by 1 referee and 2 linesmen. This is referred to as a 3 Man System. Outside Australia in high level competitions, there are 2 referees and 2 linesmen. This is referred to as a 4 Man system. It is also possible but not preferred for a 2 Man System to be used. Some officials can be either a referee or a linesman in different games – the orange bands can be taken off the referee jersey – while some other officials are usually a referee only or a linesman only. 


The referee is in charge of the game and decides on penalties and goals. The referee can confer with the linesmen in case of doubt about penalties and goals. There is no video review in Australian hockey. Linesmen conduct face-offs and decide on offside penalties. Linesmen also usually separate fighting players.


There are many ways to be penalised in a game of hockey by the referee. When the referee spots a penalty, they raise a hand in the air straight into the air. The penalty will start when the team to be penalised touches the puck. In some cases, the goal tender of the team to receive the penalty will leave the goal area and return to the bench to allow an extra skater onto the ice until the penalty takes effect. The goal tender will return to their regular spot once the penalised team touches the puck.


There can be no fewer than 3 skaters on the ice for each team as the result of penalties. It is common for one team to have 2 skaters in the penalty box at the same time, giving the non penalised team a 5 on 3 advantage. On occasion, penalties can overlap depending on the number of penalties issued. For minor penalties, the scoreboard will show the time remaining for each penalty.


Teams with more skaters than the other team are on the Power Play (PP) while the opposing team are on the Penalty Kill (PK). It may be expressed as a 5 on 4 Power Play or a 5 on 3 Power Play. If there are equal numbers of skaters on both teams but under 5 skaters (for instance 4 skaters on each team or 3 skaters on each team), neither team is on Power Play or Penalty Kill. These would be expressed as 4 on 4 or 3 on 3. 




Graphic – Team Black has 5 skaters while Team Blue has 4 skaters due to a penalty against Team Blue. Team Black is on the Power Play (PP) while Team Blue is on the Penalty Kill (PK). Actual positions may change depending to tactics, game situation and the penalised player’s position.


This page features many signals used in situations where penalties apply. Also see Officials Signals – General Play.


Delayed Penalty:


If the non penalised team retain possession of the puck, play will continue until the penalised team touches the puck. This is referred to as a Delayed Penalty. The referee keeps their non-whistle arm extended straight above the head until play stops, possibly pointing to the penalised player. Play does not automatically stop if there is a penalty and the non penalised team has possession. A goal scoring during a Delayed Penalty is allowed and the penalty can be null and void as a result of the goal.






Minor Penalties

At the lowest level, this is referred to as a minor penalty. The skater who commits the penalty is sent to the penalty box for 2 minutes. The team who was not penalised has an advantage of having an extra player on the ice and are said to be on the powerplay. Assuming there are no further penalties and no goals, the team on the powerplay has 5 skaters on the ice. The penalised team are said to be on the penalty kill and have 4 skaters on the ice instead of 5.


There are many ways a team can be penalised for a minor penalty. In games where there is commentary or an announcer, you will hear this as “Player A has a 2 minute penalty for __________” in addition to the referee’s hand signal. In many games, a fan will have to have seen the incident and/or the referee’s hand signal to know what the penalty was for.


Minor Penalty Examples:


Boarding – Using any technique to throw an opponent into the boards unsafely.



Signal: Punch a raised open hand.





Butt Ending – Using the handle end of the stick to strike an opponent.



Signal: Cross motion of the bent forearms, one under the other.






Charging – A player runs, jumps or charges into an opponent (including goal tender).


Signal: Rotate clenched fists in front of body at chest height.







Cross-checking – Often shoving an opponent to a lesser degree than roughing. Usually, an opponent uses their stick & shoves an opponent with the shaft of the stick.


Signal: A single forward motion with both fists clenched in front of the chest.





Check From Behind – Deliberate body check from behind another player, especially if in a vulnerable position. Usually associated with a hard check into the boards which may or may not be called boarding depending on the referee’s judgement. Should result in a 2 minute minor penalty & a 10 minute misconduct penalty (see below).


Signal: Arm bent & raised behind back parallel to the ice.





Delay of game – time wasting, skaters covering the puck on the ice or deliberately hitting the puck out of play. Can also include intentional dislodging of goal net.


Signal: Open hand in front of chest extended to front of body, miming puck leaving playing area.





Elbowing – Hitting another player with an elbow or using elbow to obstruct or foul an opponent.


Signal: Tap bent elbow with opposite hand.







High-sticking – Striking an opponent with a stick (accidentally or intentionally). Also used for a striking the puck with the stick above crossbar level (penalty does not apply in this instance).


Signal: Both fists above the side of the head, miming holding a stick.






Holding – Holding another player or their stick to gain an unfair advantage. Holding The Stick’s referee signal is similar except arms are held out to one side miming holding a stick.


Signal: Hold one wrist with the other hand.








Hooking – Using a stick to grab an opponent and restrict their movement.


Signal: Similar to the action of hooking the player. Tugging motion with both arms towards the stomach.






Interference – Preventing a player from moving or reaching the puck to gain an unfair advantage. Goaltender interference occurs when a player makes sufficient contact to the goaltender to prevent them from saving the puck.


Signal: Crossed arms with fists clenched in front of chest.








Kneeing – Using a knee to strike or foul an opponent.


Signal: Slap one knee with the palm of the hand.






Roughing – Often seen as a less serious grade of fighting. Using excessive force or unnecessary roughness against an opponent.


Signal: Punching motion to the side of the body extending from the shoulder. 




Slashing – Striking a player’s stick, hands or arms in a slashing motion. Injury or stick breakage not required for penalty.


Signal: Chopping motion of the hand across the opposite forearm.







Tripping – Using the stick to trip an opponent. Intent to trip not required to enforce penalty.


Signal: Sweep one hand from in front of knee level in a backwards motion.





Unsportsmanlike conduct – Usually in the form of arguing with officials and/or using offensive language. May also cover other penalties that are not specifically against the rules but against the intention of the rule.


Signal: Form a letter T with the hands (Same signal as a Time Out).






Other Minor Penalties:

Other minor penalties where signals are not shown above include: 


  • Clipping – Using a leg (often knee on knee) on an opponent
  • Diving – Pretending to be tripped in order to earn a penalty (also called embellishment).
  • Holding the stick – Holding the stick of a player to gain unfair advantage
  • Illegal equipment or stick
  • Instigator – Often used against a player who intentionally starts a fight
  • Leaving penalty bench too early – Leaving the penalty box before the penalty has expired
  • Leaving the crease (goal tender) – Often in conjunction with a goal tender joining into a fight
  • Participating in the play beyond the centre red line (goal tender) – Goal tenders can not play the puck beyond the red line
  • Throwing puck towards opponent’s goal (goal tender)
  • Throwing stick – Throwing an opponent’s stick
  • Too Many Men – More than the required number of players on the ice. Often the result of a slow on-the-fly line change


These penalties are usually served by the person who committed the penalty. Goal tender minor penalties are served by another play who was on the ice at the time of the penalty and credited against the goal tender. Too Many Men penalties are served by a skater who was on the ice at the time of the penalty.


If the team scores while on a powerplay for a minor penalty – a powerplay goal (PPG) – the penalised player’s penalty has been served in full even if there is time remaining on the penalty. The penalised player is allowed to return to the game and the powerplay is over.  If the team with the penalised player score – known as a Short Handed Goal (SHG), the goal is allowed however the penalised player remains in the penalty box until the penalty time has expired. 

Penalty Shot

If the referee believes that the actions of a player led to the removal of a clear scoring chance, the referee may decide to award a penalty shot. The player who was denied the scoring chance receives one shot at the opposition goal tender. No other players are involved from either team. If the penalty shot is is successful, the goal is awarded and the goal scorer has scored a Penalty Shot goal (PS).  If the penalty shot fails, play is restarted. In the event of a minor penalty offence leading to a penalty shot, the penalty shot is the only punishment and the penalised player does not go to the penalty box. Higher penalties still apply.

If a penalty shot is successful in overtime, the goal is awarded and the game ends.


Signal: Arms extended above head, wrists crossed forming the letter X. 




Higher Penalties

If there is an injury or a penalty is particularly serious in nature, the referee can enforce a double minor penalty (4 minute penalty), a major penalty (5 minute penalty), misconduct (10 minute penalty), game misconduct (25 minutes & removed from game), match penalty (25 minutes & removed from game). These penalties can be applied in conjunction with minor penalties if needed. Examples of these penalties include fighting, checking from behind, abuse of officials. In extreme cases, the player may be suspended from playing in future games.


Double Minor & Major Penalties – The same referee signals are used for double minor of major penalties as would be used for minor penalties. The referee would verbally tell the penalised player and the scorekeeper that the penalty is a double minor or major penalty.








Misconduct & Game Misconduct – Used for more serious penalties. Can also be used in conjunction with other penalties or as a solo penalty. Misconducts are 10 minute penalties (usually in conjunction with other penalties) while a Game Misconduct is a 25 minute penalty & removal from the match. Game Misconducts may contribute to a suspension depending on the competition.


Signal: Tap both hips with both hands at the same time and repeat several times.




Match Penalty – Most serious penalty. Player removed from game and given 25 penalty minutes in addition to any other penalties. Depending on competition, Match penalties can result in suspension, possibly an automatic suspension.


Signal: Pat head with palm of one hand.






Page last updated 11 August 2017