Slew Footing: Potential For Serious Injury


Rule 85 (b):

"A Minor penalty or, at the discretion of the Referee, a Major penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty shall be assessed any player who uses his feet to knock an opponents skates out from under him with a kicking or leg dragging motion from behind ("slew footing")." (Canadian Hockey Referee’s Case Book/Rule Combination, 2001, pg. 221)

Slew Footing has become a common infraction throughout Minor Hockey leagues across the country. Slew footing can be a very useful move and at the same time a very dangerous move. Slew footing allows smaller or weaker players to get a larger, stronger player off balance or off the puck at the very least.

This move is very dangerous because of the way that a player who gets slew footed lands on his back or his head. When a player slew foots another player, this player being slew footed usually lands on his back/tailbone or his head and it can result is severe pain to the back and concussions to the head.

The way that a first time fan to the game of hockey can signify a slew foot is by looking at the way a player lands after being checked. First of all, the player throwing the body check is not hitting the person from the front, but from the side and more to the back of the player. The player being checked will usually have his feet up in the air when his back/tailbone or his head hits the ice as this player is forced to fall backwards from the illegal body check.

The signal for slew footing is the ‘Tripping’ signal and a slew foot will also be announced over the public address system as a ‘Tripping’ penalty.

In the following example, Gary Roberts of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the player being checked and Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators will be the player throwing the slew foot. Also, in this example the two ways a person can slew foot an opponent will be explained.

Slew Foot Example


Gary Roberts gains possession and control of the puck and is now skating a few feet from the boards through the neutral zone. Mike Fisher is skating fast and is in hot pursuit of Roberts. Roberts is looking for a teammate to pass to as the Ottawa defenceman in front of him is cutting off his skating lane. As Roberts begins to slow down Fisher is catching up quickly and is only a few feet behind Roberts. Fisher sees that Roberts is slowing down and sees a perfect opportunity to hit Roberts as he doesn’t see him coming.

As Fisher gets about a foot away from Roberts, he moves his right leg out behind Roberts’ left leg. Remember that Fisher is going at a faster speed than Roberts and when Fisher’s right leg clips the back of Roberts’ left leg, this causes Roberts’ left leg to fly up into the air and of course his right leg flies into the air as well because of the speed of Fisher’s leg hitting the back of Roberts’ left leg.

Now Roberts’ legs are both up in the air (up above his head if Fisher clipped his leg hard enough). Roberts is now on his way to the ice but he has no way to protect himself because he is falling backwards. The natural instinct when falling backwards is to put your hands or elbows down behind your back in order to brace yourself from the fall and hopefully cushion the fall.

Roberts is able to get his hands on the ice first but this barely slows his decent. He lands on his tailbone first, followed by his back and then his head hits the ice. Finally, his feet hit the ice and Roberts is laying on the ice in extreme pain because he just smashed his tailbone and he hit his head giving him a concussion. Fisher gets the puck, but not for long as he is assessed a penalty for slew footing.

This is one of the methods of executing the slew foot. The player landed on his back and the back of his head allowing the referee to see that Roberts was slew footed. Quite often the player throwing the check will complain that it was an accident and that as he was skating his leg was out behind the opponent’s leg. Sometimes this happens, but for the most part, a Referee is able to determine if a player did the slew foot on purpose or by accident.

The second method is just a minor modification of the first method just mentioned. The only thing that Fisher would have had to do in the above situation is incorporate his upper body in the body check/slew foot.

Fisher would have been able to send Roberts to the ice with even more force if he had used his arm in conjunction with his leg. Usually a player will use his elbow to create more force on the hit.

As Fisher’s leg is making contact with the back of Roberts’ leg, Fisher would have reached in front of Roberts and used for example, his elbow, to hit Roberts’ upper body backwards. The elbow and the leg of Fisher would have been going in the opposite direction. Leg going forward and elbow going backwards. This causes Roberts’ legs to still go up in the air, but Roberts’ upper body will be sent to the ice with greater force/faster. When this method of a slew foot occurs, the player being checked (Roberts) will usually land on his head first, followed by his back, then tailbone, then legs.

The speed that the player’s upper body goes to the ice is increased and the player has even less chance of protecting himself, increasing the chance of a head injury to occur. These types of slew foots usually don’t go unpenalized because they are more obvious than a player just clipping the back of another player’s leg. If the Referee is in the right position to see the infraction, he will usually see the player throwing the check, throw himself a little off balance making it even more obvious.

On top of this type of slew foot, there have been occasions where the player throwing the slew foot has also thrown the player into the boards, increasing the opportunity for an injury. When Roberts is in the air, Fisher may have now push Roberts into the boards as Roberts is only two feet away from the boards. The possibility of Roberts now hitting the side of his head against the board and the back of his head on the ice, makes it even worse and usually the player is penalized appropriately if the Referee was able to witness the illegal check.

Slew footing is a dangerous move and a cowardly move on top of that. It has put players out of commission for days, weeks, and even months with concussions, bruised tailbones and broken elbows and wrists from the player trying to brace himself as he falls. There is no room for this type of move in the game of hockey, and this is why if a Referee is able to see the infraction and determine that it was not an accident, the player guilty of throwing the check is usually penalized.


This photo shows a "Slew Foot" but the white player is not only using his leg. He is also using his arm/elbow to push the blue player’s upperbody in the opposite direction of where his feet are about to go. This sends the player to the ice at a greater speed and increases the chance of an injury.


This photo shows what is the most common end result of a "Slew Foot". The blue player’s feet will be flung up into the air (sometimes above his own head) and either the back of his head or his upper back will contact the ice first. The concussions due to "Slew Foots" result mostly from the back of the player’s head hitting the ice.



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