For most hockey players high sticking just means a call for hitting an opponent in the head with your stick. This covers the most common occurrence in high sticking penalties but the rules regarding this are a little more complex.
It is also important to point out high sticking in hockey is different from high sticking the puck. High sticking refers exclusively to the penalty of high sticking that occurs when hitting an opposing player with your stick.
What Is A High Sticking Penalty In The NHL?
Before we get into breaking down the high sticking penalty rules ourselves let’s take a look at the NHL rulebook. Below is the NHL’s official rules on high sticking in hockey.
A “high stick” is one which is carried above the height of the
opponent’s shoulders. Players must be in control and responsible for
their stick. However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an
opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through
of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center
who is bent over during the course of a face-off. A wild swing at a
bouncing puck would not be considered a normal windup or follow
through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the
shoulders shall be penalized accordingly. – NHL Rulebook Rule 60
Breaking Down The Rule
Alright, let’s break this down piece by piece. First off the rule states that a high stick occurs when it is at a height higher than the opponent’s shoulders. This means if you are a taller player you may have to be more conscious of the height of your stick.
It does not matter where you stick is carried in reference to your height but only the opponents as they are the one getting hit with the stick.
The rule then goes on to break down controlling your own stick. Essentially you the player are responsible for your stick’s whereabouts at all times. If you are hit and your stick flies up and hits an opponent that will still be a penalty.
The only occasions in which it won’t be called is in the process of a shot or when hitting a center bent over to take a faceoff.
Essentially if you aren’t shooting the puck you should keep an eye on your stick to ensure it does not hit an opponent. No matter how accidental the contact it will still be called.
Like any other penalty, a high stick comes with some time in the penalty box. But it doesn’t stop there, high sticking penalties have some interesting caveats.
A minor penalty is the most common occurrence when a high sticking penalty occurs. If you are to hit a player above the shoulder without drawing blood or intent to injure you will be asigned a minor penalty.
A minor penalty carries the sentence of two minutes in the box giving the opposing team a powerplay.
Double Minor Penalty
The double minor is the next most common penalty a player will receive from a high stick. This type of penalty occurs when a stick makes contact with a player in the head, neck, or face and draws blood.
If the referee has proof the player is bleeding then he will assign a double minor penalty. This double minor penalty assessed for high sticking is the reason you will notice NHL players and referees checking for blood after a high stick.
In this unique situation, the referees are able to call for a review of the infraction in order to double-check their call on the ice.
This review is done by the officials on the ice and allows them to make sure that it was an opposing player’s stick that caused the bleeding. The rulebook also explicitly states that it is only the referees on the ice that can review the video. There is meant to be no involvement from the NHL situation room aside from providing the referees with the video.
These review situations are the ones in which the referee watches the play on a monitor or tablet and makes his decision.
Similar to cross-checking or slashing a match penalty is awarded if the referee believes the player who committed the penalty did so with the intent to injure. This is the largest in game penalty that can be assigned to a player for high sticking an opponent.
When a match penalty is called the player will be immediately removed from the game.