What Is A Slashing Penalty In Hockey?

A quick movement of a player’s hands, and his stick forcefully strikes his opponent. The opponent goes down, and players all jump in a big scrum. That player just committed a penalty called a Slash! Slashing is an ice hockey penalty part of the category of ‘Stick Fouls’ meaning the player used his hockey stick to commit the penalty.

A slashing penalty in hockey is the act of a player swinging his stick at an opponent, whether contact is made or not.

Source: NHL Rulebook

When you have a light weight piece of carbon fiber in your hands, sometimes you use it for shooting and passing pucks…. but sometimes you people it to inflict a bit of pain on another player. If you get caught doing the latter, you could be heading to the penalty box for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or even get ejected based on the severity of your slash! It is definitely one of the more common penalties in hockey, but isn’t seen nearly as much as it was in the early 2000’s and before, when the NHL cracked down on stick infractions to increase scoring in the game. Regardless of how strictly slashes can be called these days, you will still see a slashing penalty be called every game or two!

Read on to find out the exact definitions of a slash, the type of penalties that can be called due to a slash, and some infamous slashes seen in the NHL over the years!

NHL Rule 61 – Slashing

Rule 61.1 – This rule defines what constitutes a slash- When a player swings his stick at an opponent regardless of if contact is made or not. Less intense slashes to a players pants or front of shin pads should not be penalized, but a forceful chop on your opponents body, stick, or near their hands can be called a slashing penalty at the referee’s discretion.
Rule 61.2 – This rule defines that a Minor Penalty will be imposed at the discretion of the referee based on the severity of the slash.
Rule 61.3 – A Major Penalty will be assessed to the player committing the slash at the referee’s discretion, and if an injury occurs due to the slash, a major penalty must be assessed. Thankfully, unlike soccer, NHL players (mostly) tend not to exaggerate real injuries so it isn’t too hard for the ref’s to know when a major needs to be assessed.
Rule 61.4 – A Match Penalty will be issued if, in the referees opinion the player slashed an opponent with the intent to deliberately injure an opponent. If you slashed someone in the head or neck, or hard enough over the hands or wrists, a match penalty would likely be issued.
Rule 61.5 – A Game Misconduct Penalty will be issued whenever a player is given a Major penalty for slashing, meaning the player is ejected for the rest of the game.
Rule 61.6 – A Penalty Shot can be awarded if the a player slashes an opponent from behind in the neutral or opponents attacking zones and takes away a scoring opportunity on a breakaway, a breakaway being defined as when there is no one in-between the players goalie and the opponent.
Rule 61.7 – An Awarded Goal can be given if the same situation happens as in rule 61.6, except that the players goalie has been pulled meaning he has an empty net. The assumption is that the opponent would have definitely scored on a breakaway on an empty net.
Rule 61.8 – A Fine or Suspension may be assessed to the offending player at the discretion of the commissioner, however there are no standard fines or suspensions for a slashing penalty.

During the course of a hockey game, it can be difficult not to use your stick to slash someone if you get frustrated. I’ve been there many times and also on the receiving end. The key is to make sure you never slash someone up high or hard enough to injure them – that’s when it becomes a really dangerous play.

Hockey Canada has a very similar slashing definition under Rule 8.4, and Hockey USA has slashing under rule 634 – both are very similar to the NHL description above.

Want to see a definitive guide to the rules of hockey? Click on the link to check it out!

What Penalties Are Called If A Hockey Player Gets Slashed?

Slashing can result in quite a few different penalties, from a 2 minute minor if it’s a smaller slash, to a game ejection and a suspension if things get really violent! So what happens when a slashing call is made? Read on to find out!

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

  • A Minor penalty for Slashing: If a player makes contact with an opponent by swinging their stick, the referee may give a 2 minute minor at their discretion.
  • A Major penalty for Slashing: If the player makes contact with an opponent by swinging their stick, the referee may give a 5 minute major at their discretion if they deem the slash was done with intent to injure or did injure someone.
  • 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 hockey game, and likely more games to follow!
  • Penalty Shot: If the player slashes an opponent who is on a breakaway and causes them to lose a legitatime scoring chance, the referee may award a penalty shot.
  • Goal Awarded: If the offending player slashes an opponent who is on a breakaway towards an empty net, the referee may award a goal to the team of the player getting slashed.
  • Fines or Suspensions: There is no specific set of fines or suspensions for slashing and is at the league commissioners discretion to further discipline an offending player.

What are the Craziest and Most Infamous Slashes Ever?

Marty McSorley slashes Donald Brashear – The Dirtiest Slash Of All Time!

If you have been a hockey fan for a while, you knew this slashing incident was going to be at the top of our list! An incident that im sure the NHL wishes it could forget, tarnished the games reputation as a serious sport for a long time. How could a professional sports league have people blatantly attacking others with sticks, using them as weapons!?

After a back and forth contest between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins, where Brashear had already fought and beat McSorley, as well as checked and injured Boston’s goalie Byron Dafoe, McSorley decided to take matters into his own hands after Brashear wouldn’t fight him again. McSorley swung his stick and hit Brashear in the temple, causing him to have a seizure on the ice and also suffer a grade 3 concussion.

McSorley was suspended for the remainder of the hockey season, and in fact this was the final NHL contest of his career (and rightfully so). He was tried of and found guilty of criminal assault with a weapon, but avoided jail and served 18 months of probation. McSorley was an enforcer who had many memorable fights, but this unfortunately is what he will forever be remembered for.

RELATED PENALTY: Why Are So Many Cross Checks Not Penalized?

Chris Simon Slashes Ryan Hollweg – The Longest Slashing Suspension In The NHL

If it wasn’t for the Marty McSorley incident, I think this might be the most famous slashing incident of all time. During a game between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, Ryan Hollweg laid a big hit on Chris Simon, and it was arguably a hit from behind which is a dirty play. In response, Simon turned around and slashed Hollweg directly in the face. Miraculously Hollweg only needed two stiches to repair the damage.

Simon received a Match penalty for attempt to injure, and was suspended for 25 games by the league commissioner on March 11. The Nassau County district attorney considered filing a lawsuit, but did not. Hollweg also declined to press charges.

Simon later apologized for the incident, saying it was completely unacceptable and there is no place for it in hockey – claiming he did not remember the incident due to hitting the boards with his head moments earlier on the hit from behind he received.

SIMILAR STICK PENALTY: What Is A Spearing Penalty In Hockey?

Common Questions About Slashing In Hockey

Is Slashing In Hockey Legal?

As we’ve said throughout our article – it is only ‘legal’ and wont be penalized if a slash is performed on some ones shin pads or pants with little force. Anywhere else, or with enough force, is illegal and will be penalized if you get caught

Is Slashing the Stick a Penalty?

First we need to differentiate between a slash and a stick lift. If your stick is under an opponents stick and you forcefully lift up, this is a stick lift and is a legal play (unless you lift so hard you send their stick flying out of their hands) Any motion where you slash down on an opponents stick would be a slash and the following scenarios apply.

If you lightly slash someone’s stick from the top or side (sometimes known as a love tap) this will not usually be called a penalty, but if you slash them hard enough and they lose control of the puck, the referee may give you a 2 minute minor penalty. If you slash the stick with enough force that it knocks the stick out of their hands, this is typically a 2 minute minor. If you slash their stick hard enough to break it, this will also be a 2 minute minor.

Is Slashing A Penalty In Ball Hockey

After some research, despite some ball hockey associations having various differences in their rules, it appears that with the exception of a light slash on the stick, a slash is a penalty in ball hockey.

When Did Slashing Become A Penalty?

Slashing was one of the original rules in the game of Ice Hockey. The earliest known rules of ice hockey were the ‘Halifax Rules’ and were published in a Nova Scotia newspaper by James Power. As the game of hockey spread west in the late 1800’s, and with the NHL being officially formed in 1917, it seems like slashing has always been a penalty in the NHL.

Does Getting Slashed In Hockey Hurt?

Getting slashed in hockey is something you most likely would prefer not to experience. However there are definitely some spots that it doesn’t hurt compared to some spots that it can really hurt!
Spots That Typically Do Not Hurt Getting Slashed In – Front of the shin pads, anywhere on your pants (bum, quads, hips)
Spots That Do Hurt When You Get Slashed (If You Get Slashed Hard Enough)– Back of the leg, top of the skate, hands, wrists, lower back, stomach, and your arms (if that slash misses your elbow pads / shoulder pads)
Spots That REALLY Hurt When You Get Slashed – Groin, fingers, and anywhere above the shoulders!


Slashing can be a particularly brutal penalty, as the above examples have shown. Typically, it will just be a quick hack that warrants a 2 minute minor penalty, and these occur quite frequently. If you ever witness a 5 minute major for slashing, know these do not happen often and really have no place in the game of hockey. And based on my own experience I hope you never have to feel how a bad slash feels when someone catches you right on the wrists – those ones really sting!

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