"Power play" is a sporting term used to describe a period of play where one team has a numerical advantage in players, usually due to a rule violation by the opposing team.
In several team sports, situations arise where following a rules infraction, one team is penalized by having the number of players on the field of play temporarily reduced. The term power play is commonly applied to the state of advantage the unpenalized team enjoys during this time. Specialized tactics and strategies can apply while a team is on the power play.
In ice hockey, a team is said to be on a power play when at least one opposing player is serving a penalty, and the team has a numerical advantage on the ice (whenever both teams have the same number of players on the ice, there is no power play). Up to two players per side may serve in the penalty box without substitutions being permitted, giving a team up to a possible 5-on-3 power play.
There are three types of penalties that can result in a power play for the non-offending team: minor (two minutes), double-minor (four minutes), and major (five minutes). For such penalties, the offending player is ruled off the ice and no substitute for the penalized player is permitted. If a goaltender commits either a minor, a double-minor, or a major penalty, another player who was on the ice at the time of the penalty would serve the penalty instead. A power play resulting from a minor penalty ends if the team with more players on the ice scores. A double-minor penalty is treated as if the player has committed two minor penalties back to back: a goal scored by the team with advantage in the first two minutes only ends the first minor penalty (and the second will start after the game restarts); a goal by the team with advantage in the last two minutes of the penalty will end the power play even if a goal was scored during the first part of the double-minor penalty. If a player is given a major penalty, a power play occurs, but the power play does not terminate even if the team on the power play scores (except in overtime as this ends the game); a major penalty only ends when five minutes have elapsed or the game has ended. A match penalty results in the offending player being ejected from the game (and the player is subject to possible further suspensions), but is otherwise treated the same as a major penalty.
If a team is still on a power play at the end of a regulation period, or at the end of a playoff overtime period, the power play will continue into the following period. "Misconduct" penalties (10 minutes in duration), and "game misconduct" penalties (offending player is ejected for the balance of the game) allow for substitution of the offending player, so do not result in power plays. However, in practice misconduct and game misconduct penalties are often assessed in addition to a major or minor penalty.
Special rules govern situations where three or more players on the same team must serve penalties simultaneously. They are designed to ensure a team can always have at least three skaters on the ice whilst also ensuring all penalties are fully "served" (assuming the game does not end first). In the simplest example, if Andy is assessed a minor penalty, followed by Barry, and both are still in the penalty box when Charlie also receives a minor penalty:
A goal scored by the short-handed team during a power play is called a short-handed goal; However, a short-handed goal does not affect the power play, the short-handed team must still serve the duration of the minor penalty. If a power play ends without a goal against the shorthanded team, it is said to have killed the penalty. If a team scores on the power play, it is said to have converted the power play (that is, converted the opportunity into a goal).
During a power play, the shorthanded team may launch the puck to the opposite end of the rink, and play will continue; icing is not called.
In leagues that conduct overtime with fewer than five skaters per side, the concept of the power play still exists, but its application is slightly modified. For example, the NHL uses a 3-on-3 format for overtime in the regular season, with three skaters plus the goaltender. If regulation play ends with a team on the power play, the advantaged team starts overtime with more than three skaters (almost always four, very rarely five). Similarly, if a player is penalized during overtime, the non-penalized team is allowed to play with an extra skater for the duration of the penalty, with two extra skaters if two players on the same team are serving penalties.
In box lacrosse, a power play is very similar to ice hockey, with two-minute minor penalties and five-minute majors. In field lacrosse, a similar type of penalty situation exists, though the duration of the penalty is only 30 seconds for technical fouls, one minute or more for personal fouls, and up to three minutes for use of an illegal stick, unsportsmanlike conduct and certain violent contact fouls such as targeting. Depending on the infraction, the penalty may "release" early if a goal is scored by the other team, or may be "non-releasable", meaning the full duration must be served. The term "power play" is not used in field lacrosse, but called "extra man offense" (EMO) or "man up" for the team fouled and "man down" for the offending team.
In quidditch, a power play occurs when a member of the opposing team is given a blue, yellow, or red card. A player serving time for a blue card or yellow card must remain in the penalty box for one minute or until the other team scores. If a player is assessed a red card, that player is ejected from the game and a substitute must remain in the penalty box for two minutes. This two minutes must be served in full, regardless of how many times the opposing team scores during the penalty. A player receiving a second yellow card in the same game is automatically assessed a red card. Blue cards do not stack; a player may be assessed any number of blue cards without being automatically assessed a more severe card.
A team can never have a keeper in the penalty box. If the keeper is sent to the penalty box, the penalized keeper must immediately switch positions with a chaser teammate. If all chasers are already in the penalty box, the penalized keeper must switch with a beater or seeker teammate. If the keeper's penalty results in that team having all of its players in play serving time in the penalty box, that team forfeits the game.
Several variant formats of netball introduce the concept of a power play, a designated quarter where all goals scored by a team are worth twice as normal:
A powerplay is a feature introduced into One Day International (ODI) cricket in 1991 (and subsequently into Twenty20 and 100-ball cricket) concerning fielding restrictions. In a powerplay, restrictions are applied on the fielding team, with only two fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle for a set number of overs. It is intended to add to the excitement by encouraging more aggressive batting. Prior to 2015, the batting team could declare a powerplay at a time of their choice during the innings, but as of 2015, the powerplay now occurs at set times, with an ODI innings now comprising three powerplays with varying levels of restrictions.
In Power Snooker, this arises when a player pots the power ball. This triggers a period of time whereby all points scored are doubled.
Commonly known as a "power jam", a power play occurs in roller derby when a team's designated scoring skater (jammer) is serving a penalty.
In the mixed doubles version of curling, a rule called a power play was introduced in the 2016–17 season. Each team can exercise the power play in one end per game, only when they have the hammer (throwing the last rock in an end). Instead of positioning the rock in the house on the center line, it is placed to a position straddling the edge of the eight-foot circle, with the back edge of the stone touching the tee line. The opponent's guard stone is placed in line with the stone in the house and the hack. The power play cannot be used in an extra end.