sticks have become a common occurrence in the game of hockey in recent
years. This is especially
evident at the Minor Hockey Level, where players are required to wear full
face masks to protect against injury to this area of the body.
unfortunate consequence of this protection is that, from a very young age, minor hockey players go through their development stage
believing that a high stick to the head will not hurt because they have a
full-face mask on. When these
young children move up into the Junior ranks and play with half visors,
they are so accustomed to having their sticks high up in the air and
flailing all over the place that there are some serious injuries to the
faces of Junior players.
goal is to teach players to get into the habit of keeping their sticks
down when they are young. If we are unsuccessful in accomplishing this
goal, we may soon see insurance companies forcing older players to wear
full visors to protect against injury at that level.
The reason the full visor was brought in was to reduce the
possibility of serious long-term injury to children. As medical and
insurance costs increase, one of the ways of cutting down premiums is to
reduce the chance of injury.
main purpose of the High Sticking rule is in place to protect the upper
regions of a person’s body, particularly the neck and head.
A penalty for High Sticking may be assessed when a player contacts
an opponent anywhere in the upper chest or above.
This means that if a player is hooking an opponent up around the
shoulders, the referee will likely call it a high sticking penalty, and
this is one of the penalties that could lead to a game ejection. If a
referee calls the infraction a “hook”, even though it is up around the
shoulder, it is not counted as one of the game ejection penalties. As you
can see, the “call” is very important since it could mean the loss of
a player later on in the game. As well, it could mean that a player who
should be ejected is allowed to remain in the game if he receives
penalties for lesser infractions when he should have received one of a
more serious nature.
player may receive a Minor penalty, Major and a Game Misconduct penalty,
or a Match penalty at the Minor Hockey level.
Match penalties are the most severe hits to the head with a stick
and are usually easy to call because of the obvious intent to injure.
FOR HIGH STICKING
penalties are the most commonly called High Sticking penalties largely due
to the fact that players in Minor hockey wear full face masks and it is
difficult to injure a player’s head that has a helmet and full face mask
sometimes use their stick to intimidate an opponent by waving the stick
high around a person’s face or head. Others actually make contact
accidentally, or intentionally to a player’s shoulder or head area. Both
of these infractions should be called high-sticking and result in a
penalty to the offending player.
– In Hot Pursuit!
the following example.
Lemieux is skating down the side of the ice surface near the boards with
the puck. He is currently in the neutral zone and Marty McSorley is trying
to catch him after Lemieux was able to get around.
McSorley is just a stride behind Lemieux so he starts to use his
stick to lightly tap on Lemieux’s pants (around the waist).
The slashes are very light in force and are mainly a way for
McSorley to let Lemieux know that he is right behind him and that he had
better not cut into the middle of the ice or else he will get run over.
This is good for McSorley because Lemieux has less chance of
scoring if he is near the boards as opposed to the middle of the ice.
they continue to skate down the ice, McSorley continues to slash at
Lemieux, but they are light taps or flicks against the side of Lemieux’s
body. These are more annoying
than hurtful. The only
problem is that McSorley is starting to move his stick up towards
Lemieux’s head. He is now
slashing Lemieux at the shoulder area and the referee is starting to warn
McSorley that he had better keep his stick down.
will usually yell at the players to “Watch the wood”, “Keep your
stick down” or “Keep the lumber down”.
If the Referee is close to the player then he will be able to know
that the player has heard him. If McSorley continues to hit Lemieux with
his stick then the referee knows that McSorley is doing this not only to
annoy Lemieux, but also to test the official. Officials do not like to be
tested by players. This is an
important thing for young hockey players to remember. Officials like to be
respected, not tested.
this example, and in situations that can be seen numerous times in hockey
rinks all across North America, the problem begins the moment McSorley
starts to bring his stick up above the waist of Lemieux.
McSorley continues to tap Lemieux with his stick, but now
McSorley’s stick is up around Lemieux’s shoulder. If McSorley
continues to hit Lemieux at the shoulder area with light taps of the
stick, he has probably a 50% chance of being penalized at this point
because he has been warned by the Referee to keep his stick down.
Lets just say for this example, McSorley now accidentally hits
Lemieux in the side of the face with his stick (in Minor Hockey it would
have contacted the face mask). Now
McSorley probably has a 100% chance of being assessed a penalty.
This is because he has been warned by the Referee to keep his stick
down and it is up to McSorley to be in complete control of his stick at
if the Referee is not able to communicate with the player in this
instance, a penalty will most likely be called because a high stick is
what is called an Impact or High Risk penalty.
It is a penalty that has a greater severity of causing an injury
and this type of infraction cannot be allowed to go unpenalized if the
hockey game is going to flow smoothly.
are more likely to see a Minor penalty called if the stick of a player
contacts an opponent with very little force.
The tapping or flicking of the stick with very little force will
usually be called as a Minor because the chances of the player being hurt
by are minimized by the lack of severity or force of the stick contacting
the player’s head or shoulder area.
– Accidental High Sticks
high sticks are usually called minor penalties, even when the high stick
injures a player. This is
because the Referee usually does not want to suspend a player for a high
stick that was accidental. An
example of an accidental high stick is when a player is skating down the
ice and then he decides to make a sharp turn going in the opposite
direction. This usually
happens when the puck has been turned over and the play is going back the
this player makes his sharp cut back in the other direction he sometimes
has his stick up in the air as a means to let his other players know that
he is open and wants a pass. The
only problem with this is that there may be a player from the other team
who was skating right behind him down the ice.
When the player makes his sharp turn with his stick up, the other
player may have been still skating forwards and will often skate right
into the stick of the player who just made his turn.
is obviously an accidental high stick, but since the player who was hit
with the high stick is still going at a fairly fast speed, it makes the
high stick look worse than it actually was.
The contact is usually loud enough for everyone in the arena to
hear, so it is will generally result in a penalty.
At times the contact will be rather severe due to the speed of the
players, and it may even stun or slightly injure the person being struck.
for the referee, he will often not even see this infraction because of the
fact that he is focusing on the puck carrier. He may hear the contact of
the stick and see the player fall down, but he may not have witnessed the
play. People in the arena will sometimes notice the referee and linesmen
talking to each other during the resulting stoppage of play. It is at this
point that the referee will ask the linesmen if they saw what had
happened. Based on their comments, the referee will sometimes then award a
minor penalty for high sticking to the guilty party. Seldom will you see a
major penalty awarded for high sticking which was accidental because of
the serious consequences with respect to suspensions.
it is up to the player with his stick up in the air to be in complete
control of his stick, but the game of hockey is so fast that accidents do
happen. Referees don’t like
to kick players out of games unless they have committed a penalty on
purpose or intentionally hit an opponent with a high stick.
Penalty – High Sticking
that you are aware of the kind of high sticking infractions that may
receive a minor penalty, let’s examine what might qualify as a Major
penalties at the Minor Hockey level also carry with them an automatic Game
Misconduct. Therefore, before
a referee is going to kick a player out of a game he is going to make sure
that the intent of the guilty player was to use excessive force, and that
it was not accidental. The
Referee may also take into consideration, the area where the stick
contacted the player. If a
high stick hits a player in the ear hole, the neck, or the upper back
area, which are areas that are more susceptible to injury, a major penalty
may be called
following is an example of a situation that would warrant a Major penalty
plus a Game Misconduct. Jerome
Iginla is standing between the hash marks up near the top of the end zone
circles in his attacking zone and he is waiting for a pass to come out of
the corner. The defenseman of
the defending team is leaving Iginla alone because Iginla is too far away
from the front of the net to be considered an immediate threat for a goal
to be scored.
a battle in the corner, one of Iginla’s teammates gets the puck and sees
Iginla standing alone in the top of the slot.
He decides to pass to Iginla, but as the pass is about to reach
Iginla, the defenseman skates towards Iginla and with force, swings his
stick at Iginla’s upper shoulder in hopes that this will disrupt
Iginla’s one timer. The problem is that the stick ends up riding up Iginla’s
shoulder and hits him in the throat.
Iginla is unable to get the shot off but he is also sent to the ice
gasping for air because the stick contacted him in the throat. This type
of high stick may be called a Major penalty because of where the stick
the stick had of stayed on the shoulder of Iginla then perhaps a minor
penalty would have been called because there was too much force used by
the defenseman for this high stick to be ignored. As was stated before,
the defenseman intentionally swung his stick at the shoulder area in an
attempt to stop Iginla from getting a shot off.
The force of the stick hitting Iginla was severe because the
defenseman for example swung his stick from one side of his body to the
other. By doing this he was
able to build up speed on the stick and it made for force greater.
Finally, the intent was to go for the shoulder, so there will
likely be no Match penalty for ‘Attempt to Injure’ in this situation.
However, the final outcome was that the high stick did hit Iginla
in the throat and this has caused Iginla to be injured.
final outcome was an injury to the throat, with excessive force used with
the high stick as it was swung at the player. The intent was to high stick
the player in an attempt to stop a shot. It was not an attempt to injure,
although that was the result. All
of these factors put together provide a recipe for a Major penalty plus a
Game Misconduct to be assessed to the defenseman.
In handing out the penalty, the referee must try to get inside the
mind of the player committing the infraction because there is a big
difference between a major and a match
Penalty – High Sticking
are a couple of things from the above Major penalty situation that would
have to be changed for a Match penalty to be called.
As was stated earlier in the reading, a Match penalty is usually
assessed for high sticking when a player
is seen to be trying to decapitate an opponent’s head.
the situation with Iginla, the defenseman would have had to do the
following to deserve a Match penalty.
First of all the force of the stick swinging towards Iginla would
probably have to be increased slightly.
Almost at the speed it would take to put an axe a few inches into a
tree. This analogy shows how hard a player needs to swing his stick to
deserve a Match penalty.
in the eyes of the Referee, the defenseman would have had to been aiming
at Iginla’s neck or head instead of the shoulder.
When a player aims directly at the head, and especially at the
neck, with the force stated above, he is not just trying to stop Iginla
from getting his shot off, but he is trying to intentionally hurt Iginla.
are three key factors that separate Minors from Majors, and Majors from
Match penalties with respect to high sticking. First, is the severity of
the force used by the offending player.
Second, is where the stick was aimed?
Third, is the reason for the high stick.
third point is worth repeating. After determining the force of the contact
as well as where the contact was made, the referee will consider ‘why’
the high stick was made. If it is in the play, the referee may feel
justified in assuming that the player was merely attempting to do his job
and perhaps got carried away. However, if the contact occurs completely
away from the play, then there is no question as to the intent. And most
senior referees will have no compassion for a player who decides to use
his stick in this manner. A Match Penalty will get the player off the ice,
not only for one game, but for several additional games as well. Hockey
does not need this type of player. In all cases, a high-sticking penalty
should be called when contact is made in the upper section of the
shoulders, neck and head. The referee must then determine “what” to
DOUBLE-MINOR OPTION AT UPPER LEVELS
popular option for referees at upper levels of hockey where half visors or
no face shields are worn is the double-minor penalty.
penalty is usually given when an injury, such as a minor cut to facial
area, occurs. It permits the referee with the option of determining that
the intent to injure was not a factor, but that the result warrants more
than just a minor penalty. To give out a major penalty also means the
player is out of the game, and yet the situation may have been purely
accidental and nothing more than part of the game. It is serious for the
offending team because it gives the other club two consecutive power
plays, but the penalized player will not be lost for the rest of the game.
If the injury is very serious, however, the referee still has the option
of increasing the penalty.