What Is Slashing In Hockey

As you likely already know slashing in hockey refers to the act of hitting another player with your stick. But the NHL rules regarding slashing penalties are a little more complex than that. After all, if they called a penalty each time a player hit their opponent with their stick there likely wouldn’t be enough room in the penalty box.

What Is A Slashing Penalty In The NHL?

Before we start breaking down the slashing penalty itself let’s break out the rulebook. Here is the NHL’s official stance on slashing penalties:

Slashing – Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an
opponent, whether contact is made or not. Non-aggressive stick
contact to the pant or front of the shin pads, should not be penalized
as slashing. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an
opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s
hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play
the puck, shall be penalized as slashing. – NHL Rulebook Rule 61

The first line of this rule is quite interesting. As you can see it states that players can be charged for a slashing penalty whether or not contact is made with the opposing player. Though, it can be assumed that receiving a penalty for a missed slash is going to require a fairly aggressive attempt.

The rule goes on to explain that hits to shins pants and pants aren’t going to be called if they are not aggressive. This is one reason you will often see players lightly slash each other in the legs during a game. So long as it isn’t going to hurt the player on the receiving it is likely the referee will let you get away with it.

This rule also states that a forceful chop on the opponent’s body or stick when not attempting to play the puck is going to be a slashing call.

The two important factors you should key in on in that final rulebook sentence is the terms “forceful” and “not an attempt to play the puck”. These are the two parts of this rule that are left up to the referee’s discretion.

In other words, the referee will make this call based on his thoughts on the forcefulness of the slash and if it was an attempt to play the puck. If you are looking to get away with a slash in your next game you may want to keep these terms in mind.


Like most penalties in the NHL there are several different forms of punishment. Below is a list of the consequences you may face for committing a slash in the NHL

Two Minute Minor

A two mintue minor penalty is the most common outcome of a slash. A minor penalty for slashing is assigned based at the referees discretion based on how hard and dangerous the slash was.

Most slashes that occur in the NHL aren’t going to be called. But if they are the player is likely heading to the box for two minutes.

Five Minute Major

A five minute major penalty can also be assessed for a slash. Like the minor penalty this too is based on the severity of the slash. With the more forceful and dangerous slashes being more likely to earn a five minute major.

If a player is injured due to an illegal slash then a five minute major will automatically be called.

When a major penalty is assessed for a slash the player is automatically given a game misconduct penalty. This means the player is automatically ejected from the game.

Match Penalty

Similar to a charging call a match penalty is assigned to a player for slashing if the referee believes in his judgement that the player was deliberately trying to injure his opponent.

If this is the case a match penalty is assessed and the player is automatically removed from the game. Both match penalties and game misconduct penalties result in a fine.

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