For a move that’s worth a match penalty and so inherently dangerous, it’s amazing how often a slewfoot happens. What’s more amazing is how often players get away with it. Somehow the slewfoot is also one of the most-defended moves, with someone always willing to loudly claim it was just a hockey play, no matter how blatant. This year’s playoffs have already had their share of slewfoots (slewfeet?), all of which have somehow avoided anything more than a minor penalty.
The NHL has plenty to say about the slewfoot.
52.1 Slew-footing - Slew-footing is the act of a player or goalkeeper using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s feet from under him, or pushes an opponent’s upper body backward with an arm or elbow, and at the same time with a forward motion of his leg, knocks or kicks the opponent’s feet from under him, causing him to fall violently to the ice.
52.2 Match Penalty - Any player who is guilty of slew-footing shall be assessed a match penalty.
52.3 Fines and Suspensions - There are no specified fines or suspensions for slew-footing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).
Per the NHL’s own rules (which they have a spotless track record of enforcing), if you use your foot to trip someone, or trip them while shoving them backwards, you’re gone for the remainder of the game. Strangely enough, the following three playoff slewfoots didn’t have that end result.
Rich Peverly/Nazem Kadri
Well before the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead to send the Bruins to the Eastern Conference semifinals, Rich Peverly treated Nazem Kadri to a trip into the boards thanks to his left leg and elbow. It turns out that if you push on someone’s leg from behind at the same time you as you elbow them in the chest, they fall! While Peverly did get a tripping penalty, he did not get a match penalty for the slewfoot. He also got punched in the face by Kadri, who apparently wasn’t a fan of the play. Before you start squealing HOCKEY PLAY, let’s look at this from another angle.
This particular move earned Peverly two minutes each for tripping and roughing, and two to Kadri for roughing thanks to the post-slewfoot facepunch. It’s hard to say this really affected the outcome of the game (unless you’re a Leafs fan, in which case carry on), but it’s pretty easy to see it was a full-on, in-your-face slewfoot (unless you’re a Bruins fan, in which case stop gloating already).
Derek Dorsett/Mike Green
The hilarity of the Dorsett on Green slewfoot from game six of the Capitals/Rangers series was that Green was the one who ended up taking the penalty for it. Dorsett chased Green into the corner after the puck, attempted a slewfoot, and managed to trip himself. Mike Green stayed upright, but a retaliatory crosscheck to Dorsett’s face sent him to the box. Meanwhile, Dorsett happily skates away with a bloody face, patting himself on the back for an agitation job well done. This particular slewfoot is a little less obvious, but that’s primarily because Dorsett doesn’t stick the landing.
Andrew Shaw/Valtteri Filppula
The Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw delivered an advanced slewfoot manoeuvre on Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula by first spinning him around to get him into the proper position then delivering the necessary push-pull.
Nobody was penalized for this incident, but Filppula did leave the game with a leg injury of some sort. That injury has turned out to be a high ankle sprain, which is probably better than some of the alternatives an uncontrolled fall backwards onto ice can cause, but still an overall crappy problem.
Fun with ankles!
The ankle is a messy and complicated joint, consisting of three bones, multiple ligaments, and at least 567* ways to injure it. A sprain is stretched or torn ligament, and since the ankle has a lot of ligaments, it can suffer from lot of different sprains. Sprains are mostly mild, and usually involve the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), which connects the lateral malleolus (that bump on the outside of your ankle) to the talus (the bone that your tibia and fibula sit on). A few weeks of rest, ice, anti-inflammatories and joint support will usually take care of it, and for mild sprains a taped joint is almost as good as an uninjured one for a determined athlete (albeit far, far more painful).
*Maybe not quite 567.
A high ankle sprain is caused by outward rotation of the foot, and can be complicated. The three syndesmotic ligaments are the ones that hold the tibia and fibula together at the bottom just above the ankle (hence the name high ankle sprain), and a severe injury to those ligaments can result in the bones that make up the bottom of your leg floating around with very little in the way of connection to the foot, or to each other.
A mild high ankle sprain can be treated the same as any other, but frequently take about twice as long as a standard sprained ankle to heal. A severe sprain with multi-ligament damage can end up with a long healing and rehab course. Worst-case scenario is surgery to artificially stabilize the connection between the tibia and fibula, a long time splinted and non-weight-bearing, and as much as six months before a return to play can happen. Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland has given a six to eight week timeline on Filppula’s recovery, so it looks as though he’s avoided the worst of it.
All three of these playoff slewfoots can likely be easily argued either way – as a dirty rat move, or as a hockey play. The simple fact is that the only person who truly knows what happened is the guy responsible. Forensic review of the footage of the Shaw/Filppula incident reveals that there may in fact be another witness to the incident. Unfortunately, nobody wants to question him.