In the game of hockey, the play moves fast. As skaters race down the ice trying to get to the puck it can be challenging to keep their stick in check. And as referees are always watching the play, ensuring it is safe and legal, high sticking is a call you will see pretty often.
What is High Sticking Definition
High sticking, not to be confused with a high stick call, is when a player makes contact with their stick on another player above his shoulders. This can be both intentional or accidental. This often happens when players are battling over the puck and a player lifts their stick for the puck, but in doing so, hits the other player.
- When a player hits another player over the shoulders with his stick the call is high sticking.
- A high sticking infraction involves a minor penalty of two minutes.
- If a stick makes the player bleed it will be a double minor penalty of four minutes.
- A high stick that simply comes in contact with the puck will result in a stoppage of play.
- A goal in the opponent’s net is disallowed if it is the result of a high stick.
The Difference Between High Sticking and a High Stick Play
Referees are constantly watching for any infractions. But in the case of high sticking, they are looking for when the stick comes past the shoulders of a player. The stick hitting another player is key, because if a stick simply goes high in the air after a puck this is called down as a high stick play.
In the case of a high stick, a stoppage in play will occur if the team who touched it regains control of the puck. But if the other team gains control of the puck, the play will continue. If the puck goes into the opposing net by way of a high stick there will be no goal allowed.
Here a high stick is considered if the stick comes up higher than the crossbar on the net. Sometimes, it can be close, and therefore, the officials in the Situation Room will need to review the play. If, however, a high stick results in a goal in a player’s own net, the goal stands.
According to the NHL rulebook, there is some leeway with this infraction. It states that “a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal wind up or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off.”
This would therefore be at the referees’ discretion. So, in case you were wondering, high sticking can be both intentional and accidental. Some players intentionally go after another and use their stick to do so. To see what I mean, check out the following video of some more intentional high sticking penalties.
Worst Stick Incidents in NHL Video
And while yes, some players use their stick like a weapon, some have also faked being hit with a stick to get a penalty call. One of the more humorous calls takes place in 2007. Toronto Maple Leaf’s Roman Polak was called on high sticking against Scott Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers.
It was called a phantom high-sticking penalty.
Phantom High-sticking Video
How Referees Make the Call
When a referee sees a play that involves high sticking, he will blow the whistle and call a halt to the gameplay. Sometimes, this infraction can happen behind the play and may not be called right away. This may happen if the team that will receive the power play has the puck and is within the range of a goal.
The team will know a penalty is coming because the referee who saw the infraction will hold up their hand until the whistle is blown. The referee will then produce a motion of a high stick in the air with his hands to indicate what the call is.
Is High Sticking a Minor Penalty?
Yes, typically high sticking is a minor infraction and will mean the penalized player will go in the sin bin for two minutes. If, however, the infracting player makes his opponent bleed the call will then be a double minor, four minutes.
Sometimes, the result can be devastating, and a double minor won’t cover it. In this case, a five-minute penalty can occur and even game misconduct. Watch the video below as Detroit Redwings Gustav Nyquist carelessly (and with intent) high sticks Minnesota Wild’s Jared Spurgeon.
While the call didn’t result in game misconduct, the NHL Department of Player Safety (DOPS) made a ruling to suspend him for six days. At the time, Nyquist would forfeit $26,388.89 per game suspended. As you can see, sometimes referees don’t always get the call right the first time.
A Vicious High Stick Video
Changes Over Time
Since its first introduction in the 1929-1930 season, we have seen the penalty for high sticking evolve. In the 1992-1993 season, the rule was altered to include any use of the stick above waist height. Previously it was shoulder-height. Essentially, a high stick can come from any height, even a player on his knees can high stick another player.
In 1993, the rule of a high stick goal was redefined. A goal is allowed if the stick did not pass the height of the crossbar frame of the net. Lastly, with the introduction of the DOPS in 2011, the league has been paying closer attention to the high sticking infraction.
Ultimately, it is up to the player to be in control of their stick, in the same manner that a driver needs to be in control of their car. A stick can be used as a weapon and can seriously injure a player. As such, the referees need to be on top of the game to make sure all play is fair.
By Danielle L’Ami
Danielle is a Hab-loving hockey mom who lives in Canada with her family. In her house, high sticking has resulted in automatic game misconduct to the offending player’s room.
You are on our What is High Sticking page.
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