What is a Slashing Penalty in Ice Hockey?

Slashing in ice hockey is the act of a player swinging their stick at an opponent, and there doesn’t need to be any contact for the act to be deemed a slash. Any forceful swing of the stick at an opponent’s legs, stick, body, or hands will be seen as slashing.

In hockey, sticks are primarily used for scoring and passing, but can also be used to inhibit opponents from time to time. While some of these are legal, such as stick checks, others are not. Slashing is one of the most common examples of a player improperly using their stick.

Keep reading to learn more about the slashing penalty in ice hockey, and how long offending players will need to sit in the penalty box for.

Key Takeaways

  • Slashing is the act of a player swinging their stick at an opponent’s legs, stick, body, or hands. Even if there is no contact made with the stick, a penalty will still be called.
  • Most slashing penalties are a two-minute minor. However, it can also be a major penalty, game misconduct, or match penalty if the ref feels it was exceptionally dangerous or done with intent to injure.
  • Slashing is often confused with stick checking, but stick checking is generally lighter, often done by lifting the stick instead of chopping down, and normally done to separate an opponent’s stick from the puck.

What is Slashing?

In ice hockey, slashing occurs when a player forcefully swings their stick at an opponent. Whether the swing is towards their stick, their hands, their legs, or their body, a slashing penalty can be called.

Even if the slash doesn’t actually make contact with the opposing player, it is still a penalty. Slashing is outlined in Rule 61 of the NHL rulebook and is classified as a stick foul.

Slashing is against the rules because it is a potentially dangerous play that can lead to injury. Hockey sticks are quite hard, and if they are swung quickly and with malice, they have the potential to do a lot of damage to whatever they hit.

Also, if slashing was legal, offensive players would struggle as defensemen could simply take free swings at their stick or body, making it almost impossible to maintain possession of the puck in traffic.

As you can see from the following video, players generally don’t take too kindly to being slashed, and it is often seen as a dirty or overly aggressive play on the ice.

What is the Penalty for Slashing?

The penalty for slashing in ice hockey depends on the severity of the action. In most cases, a slashing penalty will be a two-minute minor penalty. This is similar to other common penalties like hooking, roughing, interference, and tripping.

However, if the slashing is reckless and seriously endangers an opponent, a ref can decide to give a five-minute major penalty for the infraction. This major penalty will also be automatically accompanied by a game misconduct penalty, which results in the player being ejected.

Referees can also decide to assess a match penalty if they think the particular act was dangerous enough to deserve it. Players who are given match penalties have a high chance of being fined or suspended, as it is the most serious type of penalty in hockey.

Slashing has been a penalty for a very long time, but ahead of the 2017-18 NHL season, the league said it was cracking down on the infraction and paying closer attention to it. This was not only due to slashes leading to some injuries, but also due to past inconsistencies.

In the past, players would use their stick on opposing players’ hands to try and get them to misplay the puck. Some refs would call this a slash, while others wouldn’t. This was confusing for everyone in the sport, and the changes in 2017-18 helped it be called more consistently.


Here are a few commonly asked questions about slashing in ice hockey, along with their answers.

What’s the difference between slashing and stick checking?

Slashing is a forceful swing of the stick to an opponent’s body or stick. A stick check is generally a lighter lift of the stick that is done to interrupt an opponent’s possession of the puck. A stick check can turn into a slash if a player isn’t careful and considerate, however.

What is the referee signal for slashing?

The referee signal for slashing involves them holding out one arm, and then using the other arm to provide a chopping motion on the arm that is being held out.

Final Thoughts

Slashing is a common act and penalty in hockey, whether done intentionally or unintentionally. I hope that this guide has helped you learn more about the act of slashing, and how penalties are assessed for it.

Do you think the current rules and penalties surrounding slashing are fair, or do you think they should be changed/adjusted? Let me know in a comment below.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email: kale@hockeyhow.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *