Concern is mounting in the National Hockey League over the amount of players being sentenced to spend time in penalty boxes.
In the 2020 season, a whopping 90% of all players were incarcerated in a penalty box at some point in time, and most of them were sanctioned for only minor penalties. This revelation has placed the NHL in the hot seat with many calling on the league to address the problem.
“When a player trips or slashes another player, they get sent to the box. That’s how it’s always been,” said tenured hockey writer David Schulzberg. “But I think we should start asking, ‘Is there a better way to deal with players who commit penalties?’”
Penalty boxes have been a staple of the game for over a century. However, over the past five seasons, the NHL has seen a steady increase in the number of penalties per game. Consequently, many are beginning to question the benefit of locking players up.
“In the past, the league has told refs to crack down on penalties,” said Richard Wallace, a hockey analyst for ESPN. “The league hoped this would deter athletes from committing these fouls. But does locking them up in a cramped penalty box really work? Most skaters end up re-offending minutes after their release.”
“Penalty boxes are strictly punitive; they show no regard for rehabilitation,” said Schulzberg, echoing Wallace’s concern. “It’s easy to send a player to the box when they commit a penalty. But will doing so really help them to change their ways, or does it place them in greater jeopardy going forward?”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says that the league will spend time this offseason exploring ways to reform penalty boxes, but that nobody should expect them to be abolished from the game entirely.