Hockey Slashing Penalty

ice Hockey Slashing

In ice hockey, slashing is defined as the act of a player aggressively swinging their stick at an opponent, regardless of whether contact is made. Slashing is considered a “stick infraction” in hockey, one of many penalties which can be incurred by improper use of the hockey stick. In most cases, obvious slashing towards another player will result in penalty time and possibly even ejection from the match if it can be shown that the slash was a deliberate attempt to injure.  


Slashing is a common illegal move in ice hockey and is a penalty in most professional, college, and youth leagues. Though hockey is a very physical sport, certain actions during matches carry a greater risk of injury to players and are thus disallowed. Slashing another player with one’s hockey stick, either above or below the waist, is one of these illegal actions, falling under the category of “stick infractions.” Slashing occurs whenever one player makes a forceful or powerful chop with their stick that is aimed at an opponent’s body, on or near the opponent’s hands, or breaks their stick.

There is some overlap between illegal slashing in hockey and incidental contact between a player’s stick and another player’s body. Therefore, hockey officials must be very observant in determining whether such contact was made intentionally and aggressively or whether it was an unintentional consequence of two players going for the puck. In the NHL Rulebook, it is made clear that any non-aggressive stick contact from one player to another player’s pants or shin pads should not be penalized as slashing.

Certain leagues, such as youth leagues managed by USA Hockey, have additional instructions regarding slashing. While obvious slashing is a clear penalty in these leagues, referees are also instructed to penalize any reckless swinging of the hockey stick. According to Rule 634 of the USA Hockey Rulebook, referees are instructed to penalize any player who even makes a wild swing at the puck with the intention of intimidating the opponent, rather than simply directly slashing at the other player.


Slashing is a common penalty in hockey, and there are various consequences for it, depending on the league. In the NHL, common slashing earns a minor penalty of two minutes in the penalty box, but the referee can make a judgment for adding a major penalty of five minutes if the slashing contact was severe. If the slashing is obvious and showcases clear intent to injure the other player, the referee may impose a match penalty and eject the offending player from the game. Additionally, if a slash occurs in the defensive zone, preventing one player from making a shot at the goal, it is possible for the referee to award a penalty shot, or even a goal if there was an open net, to the non-slashing team. 

In the NCAA, slashing is grounds for a minor, major, or game misconduct penalty at the discretion of the referee. In the NFHS and USA Hockey, slashing earns a minor penalty, a major or major plus game misconduct penalty, or a match penalty.

In most hockey leagues, any player who slashes another with their stick in the course of a fight or altercation generally receives a major penalty in addition to whatever penalties are incurred for fighting.

Referee Signal

Ice Hockey Slashing Penalty Signal

The signal for slashing in ice hockey is similar across most leagues. In the NHL, slashing is signaled by the referee making a chopping motion with the edge of one hand across the opposite forearm. The gesture is the same in the NCAA but is specified as using the non-whistle hand to make the chopping motion. 


  • Players 1 and 2 are fighting over the puck against the boards when Player 2 raises his stick aggressively and slashes it down onto the forearms of Player 1, causing him to fall back and give Player 2 the puck. The whistle is blown, and when the officials determine that Player 2 intentionally slashed Player 1, Player 2 is given a minor penalty of two minutes.
  • Player 1 has possession of the puck and enters their offensive zone to make a shot for the goal. As he does, Player 2 skates toward him and attempts to knock the puck away by slashing his opponent, making contact with his shins and tangling up his shot. Since the slash was clear and obvious as an attempt to break up the shot, Player 1’s team earns a free penalty shot at the goal.
  • In a youth hockey game, Players 1 and 2 are skating for a loose puck when Player 1 makes a wide swing with his stick to intimidate Player 2, lifting his stick off the ice in a slashing motion. The referee blows the whistle, and Player 1 is given a minor penalty for slashing even though no contact was made, as his wild swing was clearly meant to intimidate his opponent.

Similar Penalties to Slashing

  • Butt-ending
  • Tripping
  • Hooking
  • Spearing


What is slashing in hockey?

In ice hockey, slashing occurs when a player deliberately slashes their stick in an aggressive motion, swinging it at another player’s body, legs, or hands in an attempt to injure them or gain possession of the puck. Slashing is an illegal stick infraction in hockey and is typically penalized. However, there is a difference between intentional slashing and indirect contact between a player’s body and another player’s stick. Therefore, referees need to be observant in order to correctly determine whether an instance of contact between a player and their opponent’s stick was intentional slashing or merely coincidence.

What are the consequences of being called for slashing in hockey?

Slashing is a penalty and punishments for it are generally similar in most hockey leagues. Slashing is a minor penalty in the NHL, but the referee can call a major penalty if the slashing was severe or even a match penalty if there was clear intent to injure the other player. Penalty shots and awarded goals can be incurred if slashing occurs in the guilty player’s defensive zone, preventing an easy goal. In the NCAA, slashing earns either a minor, major, or game misconduct penalty and can even result in disqualification at the discretion of the referee. In NFHS and USA Hockey, slashing earns a minor penalty, a major or major plus game misconduct penalty, or a match penalty.

What happens if a player breaks another player's stick with their own?

Since hockey is a physical game, it is sometimes possible that a player fighting for the puck will break his hockey stick. In most cases, broken sticks are a result of incidental occurrences, such as smacking a stick against the boards by mistake or two sticks coming into contact while grappling for the puck. In these incidental cases, no penalties are usually given, as the broken stick was not a result of intention. However, if a player deliberately uses their stick to break another player’s, such as through slashing, they may be given a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct or slashing. There is a possibility of greater punishment if the offense is severe.