What Is Roughing In Hockey

Most hockey fans would contend a roughing penalty occurs when a player becomes to physical or hits an opponent after the whistle. The reality is that the answer to the question “what is roughing in hockey” is much more specific than that.

The roughing penalty in hockey is primarily based on physical actions that involve the hands. Pushing or punching another player are a few actions that would garner you a roughing call. More violent actions done after the whistle such as trips, slashes or crosschecks are called under their own penalties.

Roughing also works as a general penalty in some cases such as when a player intentionally removes another players helmet during the play. If you want to read up on other penalties you can check out our articles on elbowing or embellishment.

What Is A Roughing Penalty In The NHL

In the NHL roughing occurs when a player punches or slams an opponent with his hand or if a player intentionally removes an opposing players helmet during play. The differing penalties one can receive for roughing also include actions much more specific than your average fan would realize.

Here is the NHL Rulebooks official stance on roughing

Roughing – Roughing is a punching or slamming motion with or
without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of
an opponent, or if a player intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet
during play pursuant to Rule 9.6.
Roughing is a minor altercation that is not worthy of a major
penalty to either participant. (An altercation is a situation involving two
players with at least one to be penalized).

As you can see from the rule there are specific actions that need to take place in order for a roughing call to occur. One interesting line in this rule is the mention of punching or slamming motion with your hand.

This portion of the rule is stating that you must be quite aggressive with your hands in order to earn one of these penalties. A simple push after the whistle is not going to get you a roughing call in the NHL.

This rule also states that any player who intentionally takes off another players helmet during play will receive a minor roughing penalty. It is important to remember this is only during the play, you will not necessarily get a penalty for removing a players helmet after the whistle is blown.


Like the majority of penalties in the National Hockey League there are several different consequences a player may face. Below we’ll explain what the referees are looking for with each penalty.

Two Minute Minor

A two minute minor penalty is far and away the most common penalty for roughing. In most instances, referees call roughing penalties when the game is becoming a little too chippy.

A minor penalty for roughing is the largest consequence a non goaltending player can get for roughing.

These penalties will be called if you meet the minimum requirements for roughing. Additionally, in many situations, two players will be given minors when in an altercation. These penalties offset meaning no team will go on a powerplay.

Match Penalty

Interestingly enough only goaltenders can receive major penalties for roughing. If a referee determines that a goaltender attempts to injure another player with his glove or blocker via a punch then a match penalty will be assessed.

A match penalty means the player must be removed from the game and a five-minute penalty will be assessed to the offending team.

Fines And Suspensions

Though there are not any specific fines and suspensions that come from roughing calls that does not mean they do not exist. It is up to the commissioner’s discretion if he decides to fine or suspend players for roughing incidents.

Though the rulebook states that these fines and suspensions cannot occur for a roughing penalty called for removing another players helmet.

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