High-sticking penalty (hockey)

If a player loses his balance, say, after being body-checked, and as a result, he reflexively and quickly shoots out his arms (including the one with the stick) thereby striking an opposing player in the head with his stick, is that considered a high-sticking penalty? (it is considered a run-on sentence, I know ;))

I guess, more generally, I should ask: must there be intent to trip, interfere, slash, etc., for a penalty to be called?


The rules are written that you are always responsible for the control of your stick at all times*. So losing your balance isn’t a defense, and is usually called. Sometimes the ref sees that another player checked the stick arm and forced it there, so gives the player a break, but that is pretty rare, usually if the ref sees your stick hit someone high he calls it.

*There is an odd exception which comes into play with astonishing rarity. You can hit a player high with your stick if it is on the follow-through from a shot on goal. But you can watch several seasons worth of hockey without ever seeing someone hit on a shot follow-through.

In general, intent doesn’t matter. Players are required to have control of their stick precisely so there’s no weasel room on “well, I didn’t mean to whack him in the head with my stick!”. The only leeway on high-sticking is that you’re allowed to follow through on your shot.

If you accidentally trip, hook, board, etc. someone, that’s still a penalty. The only place intent comes in that I can think of is in the match penalty, aka intent to injure, which is usually something like a cross-check to the face or a baseball swing.

It’s been pretty well covered, but here’s the official text.

Rule 60 - High-sticking

Thank you, all.

In case you wondering, last night in the Canada/USA [del]debacle[/del] game, there was a penalty called for high-sticking on one of the Canadians where he really did seem to be off balance and just instinctively raised his arms, causing his stick to hit an opponent in the head. I felt sorry for him (‘no intent’ and all that). Now I understand. Thx.

I’m sure it does happen completely inadvertently sometimes, but not that often. These guys have been trained since they were toddlers to have masterful control of their sticks even when off balance or flat on their backs. If the league were to allow a loophole for inadvertent high sticking, there would be a rash of fake prat falls and pinwheeling arms to provide cover. It’s better to take any judgement completely out of it, even if the rare legitimate accident happens once in a while.

Just chiming in to relate a story.

I watched an Oilers game years ago where Randy Gregg (I think) had the shaft of his stick slide up the shaft of another players and caught him in the face. The injured player immediately went down with a bloody nose and Gregg called attention to the closest official. I distinctly remember Gregg criouching on the ice beside the player obviously concerned about the injury that he had accidentally caused. He was assessed a high-sticking penalty as the players must always maintain control of their stick.

I wonder if his attention had anything to do with the fact that he is, in fact, a medical doctor.