What is slashing in hockey

Learn about the determining factors, penalties, and the ongoing debate that the slashing rule brings up in the sport.

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five
New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Slashing in hockey is one of those misunderstood rules that invigorates as much debate as a Shanghai rummy night in the penalty box. But, bobblehead or benchwarmer, everyone can agree on one thing: a clear understanding of the essentials can turn any fan into an armchair referee in no time. So let’s face it, what exactly is slashing in hockey?

Getting a Grip on Slashing

In the simplest terms, slashing in hockey is when a player swings their stick at an opponent, irrespective of whether contact is made or not. As benign as it sounds, when you're on the receiving end of a tar-lacquered piece of lumber, it's far from a love tap.

Dicing the Dicey: Intent vs. Impact

Here's where it gets tricky—like a puck squeezing through a crowd of 6'5" behemoths. You see, it's not enough to wildly swing your composite wand. The refs (aka the stick-swing police) consider intent and impact while calling a slash. If you swing your stick with an apparent intent to hurt or inhibit the opponent, it's a slash. If your stick-swipe results in losing a puck or a tumble to the ice, it's likely a slash too. 

Are not all Slashes Created Equal?

Just like the difference between a harmless cross-check and one that sends you sprawling like Bambi on ice, not every degree of slashing is penalized the same. Minor slashes will get you a two-minute breather in the sin bin, while major ones can land you a five-minute major or even a game misconduct. That's going from bad to worse faster than a puck off a deflected slap shot.

A Raised Stick is not a Slashed Celebration

Remember folks, not every raised stick spells slashing. A spontaneous stick raise after a goal, or an instinctual reaction to block a shot, is not considered a slash. So enjoy those cellys, but remember not to let your enthusiasm send you parking in the penalty box.

In the Crosshairs of Controversy

For better or worse, slashing calls have become one of the most controversial aspects in today's NHL. Fans and players alike argue the inconsistencies—what one ref calls a slash, another might shrug off as a love tap. But like a misunderstood icing call, it adds to the drama, the debate, and the unpredictable flavor of the game we all love.

So, What's the Bottom Line?

As we lace up to leave this topic, keep in mind, slashing in hockey is a thin line; one not to be crossed with your stick swinging in wild abandon. All those rules might seem as confusing as an octopus toss at a Red Wings game, but trust me, knowing your slashes from your checks just makes the game a whole lot more fun to watch. 

Here's a stick tap to understanding slashing better. Remember, if you're going to play hockey, or at least shout about it, you might as well know when to yell, "Hey ref, that's a slash!"