What Is Slew Footing In Hockey: Full Definition & Video Examples

what is slew footing in hockey

What Is Slew Footing In Hockey? A Slew foot in hockey is a term that refers to a specific and dangerous hockey infraction. It involves a player using their leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s legs out from under them from behind. This action is typically combined with a push or a pull from the upper body, leading to the opponent falling backward.

In this post we’ll cover examples of slew footing, consequences (major penalty, match penalties, game misconduct), and why it’s such a dangerous play on the ice.

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Key Characteristics of Slew Foot

  1. Direction of Attack: The player committing the foul comes from behind the opponent.
  2. Leg Movement: The player uses their leg or foot to target the opponent’s lower legs or feet.
  3. Upper Body Action: There is often a simultaneous push or pull on the upper body of the opponent.
  4. Resulting Fall: The opponent usually falls backward, which can lead to serious injuries.

Why Slew Footing is a Major Penalty

The National Hockey League (NHL) categorizes slew footing as a major penalty due to its dangerous nature. When a player commits this act, they not only disrupt the game but also endanger the safety of their opponent. It’s an illegal move that is often penalized severely by referees.

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The Consequences of a Slew Foot

A player found guilty of slew footing in an NHL game can expect a range of penalties. The immediate result of a slew foot is typically a major penalty which can lead to a game misconduct or even an automatic match penalty in severe cases. The NHL Department of Player Safety may also step in, leading to suspensions or fines for the guilty player.

Penalties in NHL Hockey: Definitions

Major Penalty

What is a Major Penalty?

In NHL hockey, a major penalty is a severe punishment for serious infractions. It results in the offending player being sent to the penalty box for five minutes. During this time, the player’s team plays short-handed, meaning they have one less player on the ice. Unlike minor penalties, the penalized team does not return to full strength if the opposing team scores a goal during the penalty.

Examples of Infractions Leading to Major Penalties

  1. Fighting: When players engage in a fistfight.
  2. Boarding: Dangerous hits on an opponent into the boards.
  3. Checking from Behind: Hitting an opponent from behind in a dangerous manner.

Game Misconduct

Understanding Game Misconduct

A game misconduct penalty in the NHL results in the immediate ejection of a player from the game. This penalty is often assessed in conjunction with a minor or major penalty. The player’s team must serve the associated time penalty, but they can substitute another player on the ice after the initial minor or major penalty time is served.

Reasons for Game Misconduct Penalties

  1. Severe or Repeated Infractions: Such as egregious hits or unsportsmanlike behavior.
  2. Involvement in Fights: Especially when it escalates beyond typical fighting penalties.
  3. Abusive Language or Gestures: Directed at officials or other players.

Match Penalty

The Concept of Match Penalty

A match penalty in NHL hockey is one of the most severe penalties. It involves the permanent ejection of a player for intentionally injuring or attempting to injure an opponent. A match penalty carries an automatic five-minute major penalty, where the team must play short-handed. The player is also suspended indefinitely until the league reviews the incident.

Circumstances Leading to Match Penalties

  1. Deliberate Injury Attempts: Such as using the stick as a weapon.
  2. Severe High-Sticking: When it’s deemed intentional and causes injury.
  3. Intentional Headshots: Targeting the head with an intent to injure.

Each of these penalties reflects the NHL’s commitment to maintaining the safety and sportsmanship of the game. Major penalties, game misconducts, and match penalties are tools used to penalize and deter dangerous and unsportsmanlike conduct on the ice.

Notable Incidents of Slew Footing

Players like Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins and P.K. Subban have faced scrutiny for committing slew-footing infractions. Marchand, for instance, received a three-game suspension for a notorious slew foot incident, highlighting the NHL’s stance on this dangerous play.

What Is Slew Footing In Hockey? Player Safety and the NHL Rulebook

The NHL’s rulebook is clear on the definition of slew footing. It’s a deliberate act of a player that targets an opponent’s lower body with the intention of causing a sudden fall. It goes against the spirit of the game and is subject to supplemental discipline.

Preventing Slew Footing in the Game

Education and awareness are key in preventing slew footing. From youth leagues like Hockey Canada to professional NHL games, teaching players about the dangers of this illegal play is crucial. Knowing the answer to what is slew footing in hockey can help young players avoid this dangerous act. Officials are also trained to spot these incidents, ensuring the safety of players is upheld during the chaos of a hockey game.

How Does Slew Footing Affect the Game?

When a slew foot occurs, it can shift the momentum of the game. The offending team is often left short-handed, giving the opposing team a power play opportunity. This can be a pivotal moment, especially in a tightly contested match.

Bottom Line: The Seriousness of Slew Footing

Slew footing is not just a minor infraction; it’s a dirty play that has no place in hockey. With the potential to cause serious or even career-ending injuries, it is rightfully penalized heavily. The NHL and other hockey organizations continue to work towards eradicating such dangerous actions from the sport.

Beyond Slewfooting: The Risks of Dangerous Tripping in the Heat of Puck Battles

In the thick of a puck battle, where the clatter of hockey sticks and the intense focus on the small, sliding disc defines the moment, a dangerous trip can occur. It’s a scenario that unfolds quickly: a defenseman, eyes locked on the puck, might extend a leg, inadvertently or otherwise, making contact with an opponent’s legs. This dangerous action not only violates the rules but can lead to major penalties.

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The Unseen Dangers on Ice

During the high-stakes atmosphere at venues like TD Garden, a defenseman’s split-second decision to use their own legs to impede an opponent, rather than stickhandling or body checking within the rules, could potentially be classified as slew footing or tripping, depending on the play.

Consequences at the Core of Player Safety

The NHL Player Safety department is ever-vigilant regarding such actions, understanding that the resulting falls can cause serious injuries. When a player’s upper body hits the ice, the risk of concussions, fractures, or other severe injuries increases exponentially.

The Role of NHL Player Safety

NHL Player Safety plays a pivotal role in monitoring, reviewing, and penalizing dangerous trips. Their goal is to protect players from harm while maintaining the integrity of the game. Each slew-footing incident is meticulously analyzed to determine the appropriate response, be it a fine, suspension, or in cases of repeat offenses, longer bans from play.

The Bottom Line: Safety Over Penalties

For hockey players, the awareness of their own and their opponents’ safety must supersede the competitive urge to win a puck battle at any cost. While major penalties serve as a deterrent, the ultimate goal is to avoid dangerous actions that could lead to serious injuries. It’s not just about avoiding a trip to the penalty box, but also about ensuring that all players can leave the ice in the same condition they entered.


What is Slew footing in hockey? In short, it represents a darker side of hockey, an action that can mar the beauty of this fast-paced game. It’s a serious offense that has been met with significant penalties to protect the well-being of players. As fans and participants in the hockey community, recognizing the seriousness of slew footing is vital in promoting a safe and respectful playing environment.

From the perspective of the NHL rulebook to the actions of the NHL Department of Player Safety, the gravity of a slew foot incident is clear. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or new to the sport, recognizing the severity of such illegal plays is key to appreciating the balance between competitiveness and safety in hockey.

author avatar
Tom Fitzgerald