What Is A Butt-Ending Penalty In Hockey?

A player glides past another, makes a little jabbing motion with his top hand and down goes his opponent. What just happened? Can he do that? What kind of penalty will be called?!

A butt ending penalty is the action whereby a player uses the shaft of the stick, above the upper hand, to check an opposing player in any manner or jabs or attempts to jab an opposing player with this part of the stick

Source: NHL Rulebook

What we described above is a penalty in ice hockey called ‘Butt Ending’. We will go over below what the National Hockey League defines as spearing, what kind of penalties come out of it, and even some infamous incidents involving butt ending penalties!

NHL Rule 58 – Butt Ending

Rule 58.1 – The definition of butt ending, or, in the NHL’s eyes – when a player uses the shaft of his stick above the upper hand (the ‘knob’ of the stick) to check or jab in any manner an opposing player, whether contact is made or not. (Many don’t realize the motion of butt ending can also be considered a penalty!
Rule 58.2 – This rule defines that a player committing the butt ending will have a double minor (4 minute) penalty assessed if contact is not made.
Rule 58.3 – If the player attempts a butt end and successfully makes contact with an opponent a major penalty (5 minutes) will be called.
Rule 58.4 – If the butt ending results in an injury, the offender can be issued a match penalty
Rule 58.5 – If a major penalty is assessed (the player made contact with the butt end) the offending player will be ejected from the rest of the game.
Rule 58.6 – Rule 58.6 deals with fines and suspensions for the butt end. If the offense was flagrant enough, the commissioner and player safety head can decide if the player receives a fine up to $5,000 or if they are suspended for a certain number of games

As we would expect, the penalty is more severe if a butt end is successful. Even when there is no actual contact, but it is obvious that the player intended to ‘butt end’ a penalty will be assessed. Sometimes this might happen when a spearing doesn’t quite make full contact, and a player gets off a bit easy! Rules 58.2 – 58.5 specify the types of penalties. Rule 58.6 states that there are no specific fines or suspensions for the act, however, at the league commissioners discretion supplemental fines or suspensions may apply.

Butt ending is a pretty serious penalty in hockey. As a hockey player myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few, and let me tell you they are not pleasant! A hard, sharp, wooden or composite knob in the ribs can really sting. Let’s just say if you get butt ended you are likely to get a bit fired up! Butt ends are not very common in the NHL these days, as the players know they are on camera and their odds of getting away with one are basically zero.

Hockey Canada also has a definition of butt ending, which is nearly identical to the NHL rule.

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE: All The Rules Of Ice Hockey In One East To Read Article

What Penalties Are Called If Someone Gets Butt Ended?

Since butt ending is such a serious penalty, the minimum possible penalty (the intent to ‘butt end’), players are imposed with a double-minor penalty. However, when the intent is successful, and someone successfully lands a butt end, the offending team is looking down the barrel of a five minute major! On top of killing a five minute major where goals do not negate the powerplay, the butt ender will be ejected from the game as well. And finally, if he caused a serious injury, a Match penalty is imposed.

Let’s break the potential punishments down in an easy to read and understand list –

  • A Double-Minor penalty: If a player attempts a butt end but is unsuccessful, a double minor (as defined in rule 18 of the NHL rulebook) will be imposed.
  • A Major penalty: If the player does make contact with the butt end attempt, a major penalty (as described in rule 20 of the NHL rulebook) is what they will be assessed with.
  • A Game misconduct penalty: Rule number 23 specifies that the player will be substituted for the balance of the game, but the team can call in a substitute immediately to replace the player. In addition, the league records will register ten minutes against the player imposed with a Game misconduct penalty.
  • Match penalty: Rule 21 classifies the Match penalty as when a player seriously or deliberately injures an opponent. This involves the immediate suspension of the player for the rest of the game, and likely more games to follow!

What Are Some Infamous Butt Ending Incidents?

Jason Wiemer Butt Ends Darcy Tucker, November 2001

Here is a bit of a throwback but one of the more vicious butt ends I’ve seen. On November 9 2001, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker got into a bit of a scrum with Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Wiemer. After the two traded a few innocent slashes in Florida’s end, Wiemer hammers Tucker in the face with the butt end of his stick. The slow motion part of the video really says it all. Wiemer was eventually assessed a 5 minute major for elbowing (mistakenly) and ejected from the game. Referees back then didn’t have the video replay technology we have so they weren’t able to review and give the proper penalty.

Lots of fans claim that Tucker milked his injury here, as he lay on the ice for several minutes after getting hit. We have all seen players take pucks to the face and get up faster. I’ll probably side with Tucker on this one though, Wiemer caught him right in the jaw with that butt end so I likely wouldn’t be getting up quickly after that one either! Tucker sat out a week after this with what was diagnosed as a grade 3 concussion, and Wiemer was eventually suspended 7 games for the incident!

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David Legwand Butt Ends Evgeni Malkin, March 2014

In 2014 between a matchup of top teams the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, centerman David Legwand gave superstar Evgeni Malkin a pretty savage butt end to the nether regions. As you can see in the modern era of hockey, he was never going to get away with this one. I believe this is why we are seeing fewer and fewer spearing and butt ending penalties – no one gets away with them!

Malkin was down but not out, and continued to play. Meanwhile, Legwand was assessed a 5 minute major and a game misconduct, but received no further suspension, merely a $5000 dollar fine. Good thing Malkin wore his cup that day!

RELATED PENALTY: What Is The Definition Of A Spearing Penalty In Ice Hockey?


We hope you have a clearer picture of what it means to spear someone in hockey. 99% of the time a spear is the result of a players frustration boiling over and them making a bone headed play. Rarely (but not never!) do players plan to spear someone in advance. We just wonder how many gruesome spears there were in the 70’s and 80’s that we don’t have on film… We’ll never know now, probably to the NHL’s benefit!

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