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Hockey sticks are meant to be used to play the puck with but let’s face it, they also come in handy for slowing down the opposition. Using your stick illegally will result in a penalty though and one of the most common stick infractions in the sport is slashing.
Slashing in hockey is defined as a player purposely swinging or chopping their stick at an opponent or the opponent’s stick, regardless if contact is made or not. A player may also be called for slashing by poking at the puck with their stick when a goaltender has possession of it in the goal crease. The rule against slashing is enforced by the on-ice officials and the action can result in a two-minute minor, five-minute major, or match penalty depending on how severe the incident is.
The referee will signify a slashing penalty by making a chopping motion with the edge of one hand across the forearm of the other arm.
A slashing penalty is supposed to be assessed when a referee deems that the player who swings their stick is doing so while not attempting to play the puck. This means it’s a subjective call since referees may interpret some instances differently.
For example, if minor, incidental contact with the stick is made on a player’s shin while attempting to play the puck there is usually no penalty called. However, if a player slashes an opponent’s stick and breaks it a penalty is usually assessed.
The most common punishment for slashing is a two-minute minor penalty. However, if the slash is severe or causes injury it may result in a five-minute major penalty or a match penalty which will see the player ejected from the game.
In some instances of severe slashes or when a player attempts to injure an opponent the hockey league may fine and/or suspend the player as well. Penalties are assessed for slashing as a way to protect players from injuries. They’re also called to stop players from illegally hindering their opponents’ movement and playmaking abilities.
The slashing rule is generally enforced more strictly at the amateur, high-school, collegiate, and recreational levels than it is in pro leagues such as the National Hockey League (NHL).
Slashing an opponent has resulted in many injuries to hockey players. It’s typically regarded as a harmless infraction if a player is slashed on their shin pads or another well-protected area of their body. However, slashes to the hand and arm area can result in fractured and/or broken bones. It can also lead to a serious injury if a player is slashed in the neck or head area.
- One such injury was suffered by NHL player Marc Methot of the Ottawa Senators when he was slashed on the hand by Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins in an NHL game in March 2017. One of Methot’s fingers was partially severed and had to be stitched back together.
- Calgary Flames’ forward Johnny Gaudreau suffered a broken finger the previous season and was sidelined for weeks when slashed by Eric Staal of the Minnesota Wild.
Hockey players wear thick shin pads and don’t usually feel slashes on the front of their lower legs. It’s because of this that some referees may not call a penalty if they feel the slash isn’t very forceful.
Most injuries occur when a player’s hand or wrist is slashed since there is minimal padding in the finger and wrist areas. The introduction of strong, durable composite hockey sticks may also be a reason for more slashing injuries.
Crackdown on Slashing Leads to More Offense
When hockey leagues ask their on-ice officials to crack down on slashing and strictly enforce the rule it usually leads to more overall offense. This is simply the result of more penalties being called which in turn leads to an increase in power-play goals when the non-penalized team plays with a man advantage.
During the first month of the 2017/18 NHL campaign, there were 347 slashing penalties called in a total of 185 contests. This was an approximate increase of 300 percent when compared to the first month of the previous season.
In addition, with players being less inclined to slash an opponent to impede them for fear of taking a penalty it also results in more scoring chances and shots on net. When the NHL enforced the slashing rule more strictly in 2017/18 it resulted in an immediate rise in power-play opportunities per game, per team from 2.99 the season before to 3.51.
Shots on net per game, per team, also went up by 1.7 as they increased from 30.1 to 31.8.
Slashing has long been considered a part of the game by most players but it’s not as common now due to referees enforcing the rule on a more consistent basis. Some players now wear wrist protectors or longer gloves to fend off slashes.
Most players slash an opponent as a defensive tactic in an attempt to slow them down rather than to cause an injury. It’s a hockey play that has been around since day one and while it may be decreasing it’s never going to completely disappear from the game.