What is a slew foot in hockey?

When we talk about a slew foot in hockey, we’re referring to a maneuver that, while it may not occur in every game, is a highly controversial play and penalty when it does happen. 

What is a slew foot in hockey? A slew foot is a specific type of trip where one player uses their leg to kick the back of another player’s leg while simultaneously pushing the player’s upper body backward with an arm or stick.

The slew foot is such a controversial type of penalty because the act can easily lead to injuries to the player on the receiving end of the slew foot. Let’s take a deeper look at this dangerous play. 

Slew FootDetails
Definition of Slew FootA maneuver where a player uses their leg to kick the back of another player’s leg while simultaneously pushing the player’s upper body backward with an arm or stick.
Mechanics of the ManeuverInvolves kicking the back of a player’s leg and pushing their upper body backward, often executed stealthily and deliberately, leading to the victim falling on their back.
Comparison with TrippingTripping involves causing a fall by impacting the victim’s legs, while slew footing specifically targets the back of the legs coupled with an upper body shove.
Rules and PenaltiesVaries across leagues; in the NHL, it could be a match penalty for intentional takedowns. Penalties range from a minor two-minute penalty to ejection and potential supplemental discipline.
Dangers and InjuriesHigh risk of head injuries, fractures, and ligament damage due to the victim’s inability to brace for the fall.
Player PerspectivesMixed reactions among players; some view it as part of the game, while others see it as dangerous and unfair. Players protect themselves through awareness, strength, and communication.
FAQ SectionAddresses common questions about the legality, penalties, and prevention of slew footing in hockey.

The Mechanics of a Slew Foot Maneuver

First, let’s learn how to identify a slew foot.  

A typical scenario looks something like this: one player uses their leg to kick the back of another player’s leg while simultaneously pushing the player’s upper body backward with an arm or stick. 

This action typically results in the victim landing on their back, and it occurs often enough behind the play or in corners where referees may have limited visibility.

This deceptive move is both dangerous and seen as unsportsmanlike for several reasons:

  • Intentionality: Unlike an accidental trip, a slew foot is often deliberate.
  • Stealth: It’s usually executed in a manner that’s challenging to spot.
  • Harm: The victim’s inability to brace for the fall increases the chance of serious injury.

The act is not only about knocking an opponent off balance—it’s about doing so in a manner that compromises the player’s ability to protect themselves, reflecting a blatant disregard for their safety.

Comparing Slew Foot with Tripping:

  • Tripping: Involves causing a player to lose balance or fall by placing a stick, knee, foot, arm, hand, or elbow in such a manner that causes the victim’s legs to collapse.
  • Slew Foot: Specifically targets the back of the legs and is coupled with a shove to the upper body, making it harder for the player to regain balance or fall safely.

Here is a video from NHL player safety with examples of slew footing:

The Rules: Identifying a Slew Foot in the Rulebook

The exact wording and penalties for a slew foot may vary across different hockey leagues, but it’s invariably listed as an infraction. Let’s take, for instance, the National Hockey League (NHL):

According to Rule 52 of the NHL Rulebook, a slew foot is deemed a match penalty when a player intentionally takes down an opponent from behind by knocking their feet out under them, most often while using the upper body to push the opponent backwards.

Penalties for Slew Footing:

  • Minor Penalty: Less severe forms may result in a two-minute minor penalty.
  • Match Penalty: More serious or injurious instances can lead to the player being ejected from the game.

Slew footing is often subject to supplemental discipline, meaning additional suspensions or fines can be levied if the league deems it appropriate.

The Dangers of Slew Footing

There’s a good reason this move is penalized: it’s incredibly risky. Hockey is already a high-contact sport, but the dynamics of a slew foot raise the stakes. Players often don’t see it coming and thus cannot brace for the fall.

Risks and Injuries Associated with Slew Footing:

  • Head Injuries: Since the player typically falls backward, there’s a risk of hitting the head on the ice.
  • Fractures: The sudden and unexpected fall makes fractures a real possibility, especially of the wrist or arm.
  • Ligament Damage: The twisting motion can lead to severe knee or ankle sprains and tears.

Player Perspectives and Reactions to Slew Footing

Players themselves see this as a dirty play with no place in the game – even though it still happens. 

Typical Quotes from Players:

  • “It’s one of those things you hate to see. We’re all out here competing, but nobody wants to injure someone.” 
  • “There’s tough play, and then there’s crossing the line. Slew footing is definitely the latter.” 

FAQ Section: Common Questions About Slew Footing Answered

  • Is a slew foot an illegal move in all hockey leagues?
    Yes, a slew foot is considered an illegal move across the board due to its dangerous nature.
  • Can a goalie be penalized for slew footing?
    While rare, if a goalie were to commit a slew foot, they would receive the same penalties as any other player.
  • What’s the average penalty for a slew foot in professional hockey?
    This varies, but penalties can range from a two-minute minor to a game ejection and a possible suspension.
  • Are there different severities of slew footing?
    Yes, the severity can vary based on the intent and the outcome of the maneuver.
  • How can young players be taught to avoid committing a slew foot?
    Education on sportsmanship, proper body checking techniques, awareness of the rules are key preventative measures, and awareness of the dirty players on the other team.

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