Hockey Clipping Penalty

ice Hockey Clipping

In ice hockey, clipping is the act of throwing the body across or below the knees of an opponent from any direction. A player who clips another intentionally attempts to use their body to strike the knees of an opponent. In most hockey leagues, clipping is an illegal form of checking and is grounds for a penalty, such as a minor, major, or even a match penalty.


In hockey, clipping occurs whenever a player from one team uses their body to deliberately strike another player’s knees or lower extremities. Clipping most often occurs when a player lowers their body or dives in front of another player, forcing that player to skate into them and fall. According to the NHL Rulebook, clipping is an illegal “low hit” delivered by a player who may or may not have both skates on the ice, with the sole intent of checking their opponent in the knee area.


Most hockey leagues have degrees of penalties for clipping. In the NHL, clipping commonly earns a minor penalty of two minutes, but if an injury occurs as a result of the clipping, the penalty can be upgraded to a major penalty of five minutes plus a game misconduct penalty of ten minutes. Finally, a match penalty or ejection can be issued if the official determines that the offending player deliberately attempted to cause injury by clipping his opponent. 

In USA Hockey, clipping is grounds for a minor penalty unless the referee concludes that the clip was an accidental result of the offending player hook-checking or poke-checking the puck in order to gain possession, in which case, there is no penalty for clipping. USA Hockey also allows for a major plus game misconduct penalty to be issued for clipping if the official concludes that the offending player recklessly endangered their opponent by clipping them. Match penalties and disqualifications can also be issued for clipping.

Penalty Signal

ice hockey clipping penalty signal

In most hockey leagues, the signal for clipping is the same. The signal involves the referee bending his knees while skating and striking his leg with either hand behind his knee, keeping both of his skates on the ice. In the NCAA, the right hand is specified as the hand to be used for the clipping signal. This signal is similar, and sometimes the same as, the signal for tripping, where the referee will strike the front of his leg in a similar posture.


  • Player 1, a defenseman, hits Player 2, an oncoming forward, below the knees as the whistle is blown and play is stopped. Since Player 1 lowered his body in order to hit Player 2 below the knees, Player 1 receives a minor penalty and serves two minutes in the box for clipping.
  • Player 1 is skating towards the goal in possession of the puck when Player 2, skating towards him, leaves his feet and dives across Player 1’s lower body. Player 1 is knocked down and injured as a result of the play. Since Player 2 deliberately left his feet in order to clip Player 1, he receives a major and a match penalty for clipping and is ejected from the game.  
  • In a youth hockey game, two players are battling for possession of the puck. Player 1 hook-checks Player 2 but incidentally hits him in the lower extremities, causing him to fall. Though Player 1 technically clipped Player 2, the referee concludes that no penalty has occurred, as Player 1 was clearly hook-checking in an attempt to gain possession of the puck, rather than deliberately clipping Player 2.

Similar Penalties to Clipping

  • Tripping
  • Leg Checking
  • Cross-Checking
  • Hooking


What is a clipping penalty in hockey?

Clipping is a penalty in ice hockey that occurs when a player deliberately leaves their feet or lowers his body in order to impact another player below the knees. Clipping is a physical foul in hockey and is similar to tripping and leg checking. Players who are found guilty of clipping another player can receive various penalties, including suspensions or fines. However, in some cases, incidental or unintentional clipping does not incur a penalty if the referee decides that a player was attempting another non-illegal move.

What are the consequences of a clipping penalty in hockey?

Clipping can have various consequences in hockey. In the NHL, clipping incurs a minor penalty, but if injury occurs as a result of it, the penalty can be upgraded to a major penalty plus a game misconduct, or even a match penalty if the official determines that the offending player deliberately attempted to cause injury by clipping his opponent. In the NCAA, clipping is a minor or major penalty, with an additional game misconduct or disqualification at the discretion of the official. In NFHS and USA Hockey leagues, clipping can be punished with a minor, major, game misconduct, or match penalty, as well as disqualification.

What is the difference between clipping and tripping penalties in hockey?

There are subtle differences between clipping and tripping in hockey. Tripping is defined as the act of placing a stick, knee, foot, arm, hand, or elbow on a player in such a manner that it causes him to lose balance or fall. Clipping, meanwhile, consists of leaving one’s feet or lowering the body in order to make contact with the opponent at or below the knees. Therefore, clipping requires a different sort of body movement than tripping, which can occur when both players are still upright. In order to clip a player, the offender must lower his body and use it as a barrier to hit his opponent below the knees.