NHL Butt Ending Rule

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In professional ice hockey, butt-ending is jabbing an opponent with the shaft (top) end of the stick. Because of the high potential for injury as well as the blatantly unsportsmanlike nature of such an action, it is always punished severely. In the official National Hockey League (NHL) rules book, butt-ending is covered by Rule 58. Jabbing an opponent with the blade end of the stick is known as spearing, and is penalized equally seriously.

Unlike most physical penalties, there is no two-minute minor penalty for butt-ending. If a player attempts to butt-end an opponent and misses, this is punishable with a four-minute double-minor penalty. As with a normal minor penalty, a player given a double-minor must serve the full four minutes in the penalty box, or until the opposing team scores a goal, whichever comes first. The essential difference, however, is that if a goal is scored during the first two minutes of the double-minor, then only the first half is cancelled out. The player must still serve the second two-minute penalty, unless another goal is scored in the meantime.

If a player does succeed in butt-ending an opponent, then the automatic minimum penalty is a five-minute major penalty, combined with a game misconduct. A player given a major penalty and a game misconduct must serve five minutes in the penalty box. Unlike a minor penalty, a major penalty does not end early if one or more goals is scored while the player is serving it. Once the penalty is served, he is then ejected from the game. The game misconduct comes with a nominal $100 fine (trivial, by the standards of professional hockey salaries) but no further sanctions. However, the league executive can, on its own initiative or at the request of the team whose player was fouled, investigate the incident and consider suspending the player. This is known as supplementary discipline.

Finally, if a player butt-ends an opponent and that man is injured, then the referee will give the maximum possible penalty, a match penalty. A match penalty means that the player is immediately ejected from the game, and another player must serve the five-minute shorthanded period in his place. In addition, a player who is given a match penalty is also given a $100 fine and is automatically suspended. Unlike game misconducts, where a supplementary discipline investigation is optional, after a match penalty an investigation is required. The investigation will determine whether the suspension will stand, and if so, for how long.

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