NHL’s Penalty Shot Not as Dramatic with the Advent of the Shootout

With the adoption of the overtime shootout for the NHL’s 2005-2006 season, one of hockey’s most exciting plays, the penalty shot, has lost its luster a bit.

Watching a player take the puck from center ice and skate in on a goalie is still a thrilling sight but now that we see it so often in shootouts, the rare penalty shot doesn’t seem quite as dramatic.

First adopted by the NHL in 1934, a penalty shot is awarded to a player who is deemed to have lost a clear scoring chance on a breakaway by way of a penalty infraction by an opposing player.

According to NHL rules, various infractions during a breakaway that can lead to a penalty shot being awarded include: a goaltender deliberately dislodging a goal-post a defending player using a stick or any other part of his body to interfere with the attacking player, a goaltender or other player throwing his stick to distract or hinder the attacking player, or any other foul committed against the attacking player from behind. In addition to this, a penalty shot is awarded to the opposing team if a non-goalie player intentionally covers the puck in his own team’s goal crease.

In the history of the Red Wings for both the regular season and playoffs, Detroit players have taken 85 penalty shots and of those 33 turned the red light on. The last penalty shot taken by a Detroit player occurred this past May 4th in the playoffs Henrik Zetterberg was stoned by San Jose’s Nabokov.

One of the most famous penalty shots took place on New Year’s Eve 1961 at Olympia Stadium when Red Wing legend Gordie Howe took the puck at center ice and skated in on his summer fishing buddy, Toronto goalie Johnny Bower.

Normally a player would not fire a puck to the glove side of a goalie, but Gordie took aim and fired a wrist shot past Bower’s stick and glove. A few years ago when I interviewed Gordie I asked him what he remembered about that famous penalty shot.

With a smile Gordie said, “I just remember saying, “Happy New Years, Johnny!”

The Detroit News photo of Howe scoring the goal that accompanies this piece was displayed for years at both Olympia Stadium and the famous Lindell AC bar.