roughing in hockey

Roughing in hockey is a penalty called when a player uses unnecessary force (usually a punch) to contact an opposing player. Furthermore, Roughing can also be called if avoidable contact is made after the whistle.

Lastly, at the discretion of the referee, a Roughing penalty can also be called if a player contacts the opponent, with no attempt to avoid contact, well after the puck carrier is no longer in possession of it.

Keep yourself fully protected from Roughing infractions by browsing our wide variety of hockey helmets and hockey gloves!

Video Example of Roughing

As soon as the Bruins’ goalie has possession of the puck, the play is stopped via a whistle from the referee. Ovechkin can be seen “crashing the net '' as the shot comes in, but as soon as the play is stopped he backs off the goalie. Following this, the Bruins player Chara, confronts Ovechkin, well after the play has stopped, with a crosscheck and a few punches. These actions are what gets Chara penalized for Roughing.

Referee Signal for Roughing in Hockey

referee signal for roughing

Hand in a fist. Upward swinging motion from the arm, starting at the side of the body, extending outward and upward.

What are the Penalties for Roughing in Hockey?

Most of the time, Roughing instances will result in a two-minute Minor Penalty. However, Major Penalties can be assessed depending on the severity of the incident, which is at the discretion of the referee.

If a player makes contact (that follows the exact definition of Roughing) with an opposing player who no longer has possession of the puck, and after the whistle, this will result in a five-minute Major Penalty. Depending on the severity of this, it can lead to a Game-Misconduct Penalty, which is also at the discretion of the referee.

The Official NHL Roughing Rule Text (Rule 51)

"Roughing is a punching or slamming motion with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent, or if a player intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet during play."

Actions That Cause Roughing Penalties

There are a number of actions one can commit that will result in a Roughing Penalty being called by the referee. They are:

  • Punching an opponent
  • Contacting an opponent with force after a whistle
  • Contacting an opponent who no longer has possession of the puck
  • Goalies use their equipment to punch opposing player
  • Making avoidable contact with an opposing player


This article was originally published on February 19, 2020, and has been updated with new information.