What Is Boarding In Hockey?

Boarding in hockey refers to tripping, hitting, to pushing an opposing player into the boards in a dangerous manner. This is one of the more dangerous plays in the game of hockey.

The boards themselves are often responsible for injuries whether a player is illegally hit into them or not.

What Is A Boarding Penalty In The NHL

Boarding is one of the more complex rules in hockey. In order to break it down, we are going to go to the NHL rulebook. Below is rule forty-one verbatim from the NHL rulebook. Below the rule itself is a full breakdown of what this rule means in layman terms.

A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee. There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees.

The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.

Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player hitting or impacting the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as “charging.”


So as we can see from the wording the purpose of this rule is to protect the health of the players. The rule heavily focuses on the danger involved in the collision between the player and the boards. This displays the rule is not about competitive advantage but about the danger of this play.

Referees Discretion

The rule then goes on to explain the discretion of the referee that goes into this play. In other words, this penalty is not black and white. The referee must determine based on his own opinion how dangerous the boarding was.

The referee must also take into account the external factors that led to the hit. This includes, whether the contact could have been avoided, or if the opponent in a vulnerable position.

All these factors must go into the referee’s decision on whether to call this penalty as well as the severity of the penalty they should call.

Responsibility Of The Offending Player

The rule also states that it is the responsibility of the player that commits the hit to avoid the contact if it is illegal. Much like a high stick, you must be in control of your body. If you have too much speed and accidentally hit an opposing player into the boards you will still be called for boarding.

Icing And Offside Boarding Calls

This rule also goes onto explain boarding calls in icing or offside situations. In obvious offside or icing situations hitting a player into the boards is going to be a boarding call. The rule also goes on to state hitting a player in the open ice in this context will result in a charging penalty.

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