What Is Clipping In Hockey?

Ice Hockey Clipping

Clipping in hockey is a penalty called when a player purposefully leaves their feet or lowers their body to initiate contact with an opposing player at or below the knees. 

Most commonly, a player called for clipping will be given a minor penalty. This means the player will be forced to sit in the penalty box for two minutes. During those two minutes, the offending player’s team will be a man down with only four skaters on the ice.

Clipping can be considered a major penalty if the player who was clipped suffers injuries in any form. Major penalties result in a greater five-minute stay in the penalty box, and the offender’s team will be a man down while the player serves the penalty. 

Clipping was made illegal after the 2002 playoffs following the collision between Darcy Tucker and Michael Peca. Tucker aimed below Peca’s knees, and the hit resulted in a season-ending injury for Peca. Turker’s hit has become the textbook example of clipping in today’s game.

Referee Signal

To signal a clipping penalty is being called, the referee will swing their arm with an open palm in front of their legs. It is similar to the tripping signal, but the arm swings in front of the legs instead of to the side of them. The referee will make this signal in front of the scorer’s box to alert the off-ice officials that a clipping penalty is being called.


  • A player intentionally sticks their leg out in order to check an opponent below the legs.
  • When attempting to check an opponent, a player crouches very low to the ground to check the opponent’s legs.
  • A player drops to the ice in an attempt to block the path of their opponent’s legs, resulting in a dangerous collision.


What is the difference between a clipping penalty and a hip check in hockey?

Hip checks are legal hits in hockey that initiate contact above a player’s knees, while clipping is an illegal hit targeting below a player’s knees. It is often simple to distinguish between the two forms of contact because most players who conduct acts of clipping intend to inflict pain upon the opponent. Hip checks may cause a player to lose balance and crash violently to the ice, but the contact is not intended to cause injury.

What is a trip in hockey?

Tripping is when a player purposefully uses their stick or a body part to make a player fall off balance. Tripping is considered a penalty and can lead to serious injuries. Tripping penalties often occur during break-aways when a defensive player is trailing an offensive player who has the puck. The defenseman will purposefully trip the offensive player to eliminate their chance of scoring.

Is it tripping if you hit the puck first?

In 2014, the NHL changed the “puck-first” rule so that tripping can now be called even if the defensive player made contact with the puck first. However, in regards to a potential scoring situation, if a defensive player trips an offensive player but makes contact with the puck first, a penalty shot will not be awarded. The 2014 rule states that a tripping penalty with initial contact made to the puck will only result in a two-minute minor penalty.

Is hip checking allowed in the NHL?

Yes, hip checking is allowed in the NHL. To ensure a hip check is not called a clipping penalty, a player must make contact above the knees. Never should a player intend to injure another player when hip checking. Hip checks can be momentum swingers in the NHL. A clean hip check will result in a turnover and a scoring opportunity. Also, hard hip checks will get the crowd on their feet and into the game.