Why do hockey players leave their stick on the ice
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Why Ice Hockey Players Leave Their Stick On The Ice

If you’ve watched enough ice hockey games, you will notice that some ice hockey players do not always pick up their hockey stick after they drop them. Whether it drops intentionally or unintentionally, the stick is often abandoned on the ice while the game continues

The hockey stick is a very important part of ice hockey. Therefore, anything that can make a player to abandon his hockey stick on the ice will have a good reason. It is either it can affect his play or that of the team.

Now why do they leave their stick on the ice? The two reasons this happens are if a player has a broken stick because playing with a broken stick is an offense. Or if picking up the stick can create a chance for a goal against a team. We’ll be explaining both of these instances in this article along with scenarios.

Broken Hockey Stick

Broken Hockey Stick

If a player has a broken hockey stick, he must immediately dump it on the ice. It is a general rule in ice hockey and it is the same across different leagues. Failure to follow this rule can attract a two minutes penalty from the officiating referee

The broken stick penalty is based on the referee’s discretion. Skaters have a grace period of a few seconds to realize their broken ice hockey sticks. If a player does not drop the stick and in any way tries to play the puck, the action will warrant a penalty. This stands even if he is not aware of the broken stick.

The modern types of ice hockey sticks (composite sticks) are more flexible than wooden sticks. Unfortunately, their flaw is the ease at which they break. Little cracks or fractures on the stick can lead to shattering once it comes in contact with a puck.

Instead of getting a penalty and giving the opponent an advantage, hockey players rather dispose of the stick. This rule was to protect players from injuries due to a broken stick.

When the sticks break they are left on the ice and are not picked up by the referee. Most times they will remain on the ice – mostly on one side of the ice until the conclusion of a game. During the rest period between one game and the next, it is removed so it won’t be an obstruction. 

Also, if a player wants to get a new stick, he can be given one by a teammate or from the bench. However, hockey sticks must not be thrown at a player or into the ice from the bench.


Here are two scenarios of NHL players getting a broken stick penalty. The first player is Jordan Martinook of the Hurricanes while the other is Kelvin Fiala of the Blue Jackets.

Jordan Martinook 

During a match between the New York Rangers and California Hurricanes, Jordan Martinook was sent to the penalty box for going against the broken stick rule.

Jordan unknowingly bashed his stick into the side wall while trying to dig for the puck. Even though he had a broken stick, he was unaware and continued using it.

Upon finding out, he immediately dropped his hockey stick, but this was late as the referee blew the whistle and called for a penalty. Although he explained that he dropped it immediately he noticed, the referee would go on to assess a two-minute penalty.

The penalty was called 2 minutes and 45 seconds to the end of the game that was led by the New York Rangers. Eventually, the Rangers would bag a victory over the Hurricanes leaving Jordan furious at the outcome.

Kelvin Fiala

Kelvin Fiala of the Los Angeles Kings also faced the same fate during a play with the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

He received a pass from his teammate which led to his stick breaking in half from the shaft. With half of the stick on the ice, he used his skates to kick the puck away so his opponent would not have a scoring opportunity. 

However, the game was paused and he got a penalty because the other half was still in his hands when he played the puck. If he had kicked the puck away after throwing the other half onto the ice, it would not have been an infraction.

Dropped Hockey Stick 

Dropped Hockey Stick

Ice hockey players often abandon their sticks on the ice when they mistakenly drop them. This is not because they can’t go pick it up, rather it is because of what might happen if they do.

Ice hockey teams are competitive and every player on a team has a function he plays to ensure his team scores and defends against opponent goals. Pro players often look for situations when a player is out of position to score a goal.

Whenever a player mistakenly displaces his stick on the ice, at a distance that can make him move off his position, most time he would rather stay in position than go pick up his stick. This is common when the opponent has the puck because a wrong move can lead to a goal.

These instances are also more common at professional levels such as the NHL where the game is tightly structured. But if the puck is at a distance not too far from a player’s position (not more than 4 strides) and his team is on the attack, he could retrieve it and get back in position.


Imagine a defenseman whose stick slips off his hand while he is going for a breakout play. Do you think leaving the puck to get a hockey stick would be a better strategy than covering the puck till a teammate can come to collect it? 

Leaving the puck to get the stick can allow an opponent to take possession of the puck. It also makes it easier to score a goal if a defence is out of position, creating an opening. This is why you will most likely see players chasing after a forward even when they drop their stick.


Reducing the chances of a breaking is one of the reasons why hockey players tape their sticks. Ice hockey sticks can shatter at any time, while defending, attacking or even when you shoot for a goal

Read more on: Why Hockey Players Tape Their Stick? How To Tape Yours

And when it comes to leaving your stick on the ice, it is simply a decision of what action will be wisest – get your stick and risk a goal or stay and try to stall until backup comes around. Most players go with the latter, which is to try and stall in hopes of preventing a goal.

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