What Is A Healthy Scratch In Hockey?

A healthy scratch in hockey refers to a player that is not playing in the game despite not being injured.

In the NHL teams are able to dress 20 players each game. An average NHL roster has 22 or 23 players on it meaning that in each game there are two or three players that are going to be healthy scratched.

If you see that a player has been healthy scratched for a game it means that the coach has selected him as one of the rostered players that will not dress for the game.

What Does A Healthy Scratch Do During The Game?

When a player is healthy scratched in hockey this does not mean they are not going to attend the game. In the vast majority of cases, healthy scratches still travel with the team and attend the games.

These players are on the roster and still part of the team which is why they continue to travel with the team even if they aren’t playing.

Unfortunately once the game starts these players are going to have to leave their teammates as a healthy scratch cannot spend the game on the bench.

Instead, these players will be dressed in street clothes often times watching the game from the private booths up high in the stadium.

That being said on some occasions players who are healthily scratched may choose not to attend the game with the team. This is a relatively rare occurrence but it does happen from time to time.

Are Players Paid When Healthy Scratched

Yes players in the NHL are paid when they are healthy scratched for a game. In the NHL players salaries are guaranteed meaning that you will be paid that amount of money throughout the season unless you break the contract.

This means that even if the coach decides to scratch you for the whole season you will still be earning your pay. A players salary will also still count on the salary cap even if he is healthy scratched.

There is only one way in which healthy scratches can affect a player’s pay and that is through performance bonuses.

Performance bonuses are clauses put into contracts that reward plays when they reach statistical goals. For example, a player may earn a $100,000 bonus if he scores thirty goals on the year.

Performance bonuses can only be used in certain situations in hockey which results in few players having them in their contract.

But for those that do a healthy scratch can potentially lead to missing performance bonuses throughout the season.

Main Reasons Players Are Healthy Scratched

Now that you know what a healthy scratch is in hockey you may be wondering what causes players to be scratched. Below we will break down some of the key reasons hockey players get healthy scratched.

Positional Depth

One of the main reasons that a player could earn a healthy scratch is due to depth at their position. Say for example a team has five quality players at the center position.

Since there are only four centers that are going to dress each game the team is going to have to choose one of the five to be a healthy scratch. In most cases, these healthy scratch players are going to be on third or fourth line.

The top defensive pairings as well as the top forward lines are rarely going to be healthy scratches for their team.

Disciplinary Action

Another common reason that players are healthy scratched is due to disciplinary action. There are two main reasons that a team may choose to healthy scratch a player for discipline purposes.

First comes when a player breaks team rules such as curfew. On these occasions, teams will use the healthy scratch as a punishment for not following the rules.

Additionally, teams will use healthy scratches to send a player a message in order to get them to step up. This is a common tactic used by coaches when a player is playing below their skill level.

By healthy scratching a player the coaching staff is sending a message to the player that they are not happy with their performance. This often results in improved play from the player after their healthy scratch.

Matchup Specifics

Hockey players can also be healthy scratched due to the upcoming matchup. It is no secret that professional hockey teams tweak their lineup depending on who they are playing.

For example, if a team is matching up against physical and tough opponents it may make sense to add some grittier players to your lineup.

This may mean a team will have to healthy scratch a skill player in order to bring in a player that offers a more physical game.

Again the players that get scratched in these scenarios are usually fringe players that do not play many minutes. But do not be shocked if a surprise healthy scratch has to do with the opponents of they are playing.

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