A healthy scratch in hockey refers to a player that is not included on the active roster for the upcoming game. Healthy scratches will not play in the game due to a coaches choice and not because of injury.
Usually, a team will have enough players with them to have a full roster even if a few injuries pop up. If a team is relatively healthy they are going to have a few players healthy scratched each game.
When healthy scratched, players will usually still be in the arena for the game. These players will either watch the game from the press box, work out, or watch the game from the stands.
Why Are Players Healthy Scratched?
Now that you understand what a healthy scratch is in hockey you may be wondering how players end up getting this treatment. Below we are going to break down some of the main reasons that a player may be healthy scratched.
The main reason you are going to see players get healthy scratched is that they are bubble players. This means players that are right on the verge of making the roster yet have not secured a full-time position.
These players are usually rotated in and out of the fourth line or the third defensive pairing. These sorts of plays will often get healthy scratched because they are not quite playing at the level required to stay in the lineup.
In most games, the players that are healthy scratched are players that will fit this description
Another reason that a player may be healthy scratched in hockey is due to disciplinary action. If a player fails to follow team guidelines, acts in a way negative to the team or misses curfew they may be healthy scratched.
This is one way a coach can punish players that are not following the rules of the team. In most cases, a healthy scratch only happens if a player has committed a fairly serious infraction.
These sorts of healthy scratches tend to make headlines when it is done to a high calibre player. If a bubble player is healthy scratched no one will bat an eye. But if a star player is healthy scratched for the game the media and fans will know something is up.
Another reason that a player may be healthy scratched for a game is due to poor play. Say you have a yearly twenty goal scorer on your team that has found themselves in a cold streak.
In order to give them a reset the coach may healthy scratch the player for a game. This goes as a notice for the player to step it up and also gives him a chance to sit out of a game and assess his situation.
This is a fairly common strategy for coaches when dealing with a struggling player. Though doing this comes with a cost this can cause a bit of a stir in the media.
Neither the coach nor the player enjoys answering questions about healthy scratches but when it is a player that is usually in the lineup these questions from the media will always happen.