A face wash in hockey refers to the action of rubbing your sweaty hockey glove in the face of an opposing player.
In the game of hockey, there are often scrums after the whistle that include players physical contacting one another. On many occasions, this will just be grabbing and shoving of opposing players but oftentimes it is going to include a facewash or two.
The action of face washing an opponent is a great way to get under their skin. No one likes being touched in the face, especially by someone they are competing against.
Pair this with the fact that hockey gloves usually have a terrible smell means that most players get quite upset when they are face washed.
Why Do Players Face Wash In Hockey?
Now that you understand what face washing is in hockey it’s time to break down why players do it. After all most sports don’t have a common theme of putting your smelly equipment in their opponents face.
Getting Into Your Opponents Head
One of the main reasons that you will see hockey players face wash one another is to get into their opponent’s heads. Having a hand in your face pushing or punching you lightly is enough to piss just about anyone off.
This tactic is often used against the skill players on the other team in order to get them frustrated. After the goalie freezes the puck it is common for the defensive team to give a quick facewash to an offensive player in the area.
This will almost always make the opposing player upset. Getting the opponents frustrated is one way that you can gain an advantage in the game. If you are a slower more physical player these sorts of actions are often your best bet at stopping the opposing team’s skill players.
You’ll Never Get A Penalty
Another reason that players are fast to use the face wash method in hockey is that it is almost never called. The face wash has found itself to be just harmless enough that it will not be called.
In the NHL players can face wash each other after the whistle with little to no fear of earning themselves a minor penalty.
Shoving or crosschecking after the whistle can potentially earn you a penalty if they are severe enough. This leaves the face wash as a great way to get physical with an opponent without the chance of putting your team on the penalty kill.
For this reason, face washes are incredibly common in the game and a great way for a bigger player to rough around the opposing team’s talented players without costing his team.
Protecting Their Team
Another reason that facewashes are used in hockey is to protect teammates. Not every player is big enough to physically fight the opponents and sometimes the other player needs more of a slap on the wrist instead of a fight.
For example, if a player gets a little too close to the goalie and contacts him with their stick as he ices the puck. This may not be enough for this player to get into a fight but it is enough that a nearby defenseman will give him a quick face washing.
Being on the receiving end of a glove in the face is not a pleasant experience and may teach the opposing player to stay away from your goaltender.
This is why you will often see gloves in players faces immediately after a player gets a little too aggressive trying to dig at a puck the goalie is freezing.