There is at least one dangerous play that has no place in the game of hockey. It’s a sneaky, cowardly cheap shot that injures players and can end a career. It has absolutely nothing to do with playing tough, gritty hockey. The sooner the NHL figures that out and does something to eliminate it, the better.

It’s the slewfoot, and unless my eyes are fooling me I’ve seen more of them this season than I remember noticing in any other season I can recall. The latest came in the first period of Sunday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre when serial slew-footer Andrew Shaw of the Habs kicked Connor McDavid’s left skate out from under him. It’s here.

Not quite sure if the play that left McDavid flat on his back and in pain Sunday was intentional on Shaw’s part? How about this one, where Shaw takes down Johan Larsson of the Buffalo Sabres? Or how about this sneaky bit of business from 2013 against Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings while Shaw was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks? Oopsy.

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Then, there’s Calgary’s Matt Tkachuk who kicked Brandon Davidson’s feet out from under him in Edmonton’s home-opener at Rogers Place, knocking Davidson out of the line-up. Tkachuk did the same thing to former Oiler Martin Marincin of the Toronto Maple Leafs here. Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, another serial slew-footer, took down Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall here and does the same to Anton Stralman here. Marchand, on a contract with a $6.125 AAV, was fined $10,000. That’ll show him.


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I love tough hockey. Always have. Big hits, shoulder-to-shoulder, not shoulder-to-head. I still enjoy watching a scrap between two willing combatants, even though we know enough about potential damage to the brain from repeated concussions to understand that guys who bare-knuckle fight are playing with fire. This slewfoot stuff, though, is another issue. It’s a weasel play. It’s made even more sickening by the “What, me? What did I do?” crap that often accompanies it. Weasels won’t even own it. 

There’s been three plays that have stuck in my head as particularly appalling for decades now. Plays that made me jump out of my seat and yell at the TV. One is the gloved punch from behind by Matt Johnson that marked the beginning of the end of the career of Jeff Beukeboom. That’s here. The second is Dale Hunter’s blindside of Pierre Turgeon. That’s here. Marty McSorley’s stick attack on an unsuspecting Donald Brashear is right up there, too.

What is particularly disturbing about those three plays – there are other cases that come to mind – is that in every instance the victim didn’t see the attack coming and had no chance to defend themselves. If that’s not the epitome of malice and intent to injure, I don’t know what is. The slewfoot is more subtle and less dramatic, but the crux of it, a dangerous play made against an opponent who doesn’t see it coming, is every bit as heinous.

What if McDavid broke his ankle, tore his Achilles, ripped up a knee or sustained a head injury when Shaw clipped him? What if he didn’t get up and shake it off? Same with Kronwall and with Stralman and the other players we’ve seen clipped from behind when they were unaware. Does the NHL Department of Player Safety think that pocket-change fines of $10,000 and handing out two-game suspensions will take the slewfoot out of the game? 

It’s not even a matter of protecting marquee players like McDavid with this slewfoot thing. It shouldn’t matter, even a little bit, who the victim and who the perpetrator is when it comes to a play like this. It’s a dirty, dangerous, cowardly play that can and has caused injuries and will sooner or later end a career. It has no place in the game of hockey and the NHL needs to address it now.



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  • I’d like to hear from our readers where you think McDavid fits in the Top 100 Oilers list that we’ve been running. We’re publishing players 29, 30, 31 and 32 this month and I already have McDavid slotted in above this group. Right now, with the Oilers on a break, where do you have him? I don’t have McDavid in the top-10 as of now, based on the criteria I spelled out before the series began, but he’s top-20 for me.
  • With their 1-0 shootout win in Montreal, the Oilers are 29-18-8 for 66 points through 55 games for a points-percentage of .600. That’s the best percentage the Oilers have had since they finished with .619 in 1987-88, when they claimed their fourth Stanley Cup. With 27 games to go, that .600 stands as the eighth-best percentage in franchise history.
  • Interesting piece today on how former Oilers are faring while playing over in the KHL here. Showman extraordinaire Linus Omark is having himself a terrific season. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.


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  • Jordan88

    If I had the skill to be a 4th line call up working at the minimum wage of NHL salary (which is amazing as is.)

    And if someone ran at, slew footed, cheap shotted, stinky gloved one of my team mates. I would be the epitomy of wrath and relentless rage. I would not only scar their face with my brutality but also their very soul.

    Late at night they would wake up in cold sweats seeing my mug feed their mouth hole fists in their nightmares.

    Then again… I chose the life of the donair.

  • O.C.

    This is a great article RB. Props for not doing the sunshine and lollipops and raising the hard questions.

    The passion of the fans is united; cheap and dirty plays raise the blood pressure.

    I’m shocked that players don’t out and out lose it more often. I doubt many on here, if they were big and talented enough, could resist a swinging two hander to the ankle (at least) on players who take dangerous liberties on any of their team mates, let alone on the elite ones.

    The NHLPA needs to step up here and support hard suspensions and fines of their own where livelihoods are at risk. This isn’t just about losing a chance to be competitive.

  • Oil Can

    I really don’t think to many people posting on here even follow the NHL or they would know that you can not just go and jump someone because they took a cheap shot at a team mate. Nurse tried that last year and got a two game suspension, and it is all fine and dandy to sit on your ass on your sofa and talk all tough, when you don’t play in the league. Bertuzzi jumped the guy who would not fight and it cost him a stupid long suspension and millions of dollars in civil court. And that was after Naslund was hit with a cheap blindside shot. The instigator rule has nothing to do with it. There are a lot of guys who would not care about the instigator penalty, but the league has made it so you just can not stick up for team mates any more. And the instigator rule will never be done away with as then the league would be on the hook if someone got seriously hurt as well as being sued twenty years from now, when a former player blames the league for not protecting them. There are players who are just dirty players and unfortunately only league can stop it if they ever decide they actually want to.

    • JBear

      This! Imagine Nurse going after Shaw like he did with Polak? Shaw didn’t get a suspension for his slew foot but we now know Nurse would get one for beating the nose off Shaw.

      I also think the suspensions and fines are a joke. Other than the elite players, do you think most other players are worried about a POSSIBLE 1 – 3 game suspension and a measly fine for a dirty play?

  • Stick boy

    Not trying to be an online tough guy here but if someone slew footed me I would get up and scrap the dude and take the instigator. with that being said if I were McDavid I would give Shaw a quick punch to the mouth and hope Lucic or Kassian were on the ice to help me out because my knuckles are too precious to be bruised.

  • Heschultzhescores

    The more I watch that the more it looks like a cheap shot, he tried first with the one leg, missed, then went to the other. He tried to make it look accidental, but it was clearly on purpose!

  • nbandito

    How about once you’re caught slewfooting a handful of times then you are a marked player and allowed to be slew footed for the remainder of the season with no penalty. That might stop them from doing it.

  • IMO instead of targeting the offending player, I’d ask the team to take it out on the whole other side.

    Finish every check harder, finish checks you typically wouldn’t. Go hard into the crease every single time, even if it means bumping into the goalie often. Be hard on the puck, so hard that the opponents think that your stick is made of lead. But pretend that every player on the other side is that one player.

    It’s a reinforcement of good habits, rather than being distracted by an individual who wants you off your game in the first place, but it’s fueled by your desire for revenge. 😛

    In a 0-0 game, where gifting the other team a PP is gifting the team a win, I can see why the Oilers had to pick their battles.

    You gotta use that shot of adrenaline to helping the team win, and in playing more physical against the entire team rather than just one individual. That hard check against Galchenyuk might be the turnover in possession that leads to a goal, which contrasted to waiting until Shaw gets on the ice for a big hit, a much better play.