What is the Tripping penalty in Hockey? (Explained)

tripping in hockeyAll professional sports go through rule changes and hockey is not an exception. This article in particular looks at the tripping penalty in hockey.

While there are aspects of the game that haven’t changes, there are plenty that have!

As we learn more about safety, some changes make perfectly good sense – like putting masks on goalies.

Some rules can be difficult to understand, like the aforementioned tripping. This rule takes on slightly different forms as players move through different age groups and it has changed over time.

What is tripping?

Tripping has been commonly interpreted as occurring when players fall, especially in youth leagues where players need all the help they can get to stay upright on both feet.

hockey referee tripping motionInstead, referees should only call tripping when an opposing player uses the stick or body to make another player fall. Prior to making the call, the referee needs to decide if the player actually tried to make the other player fall.

When the player uses a stick or other body part to cause the opponent to fall, the referee should call the penalty, which either takes a form of a minor or major penalty. The body parts that can cause a player to trip include the arm, foot, elbow, or knee.

The trouble with embellishing a fall

The problem with tripping comes with players who embellish by diving like the examples from this well put together video:

To make tripping look more serious than it really is, players will intentionally dive to get a better reaction from the referees.

To combat embellishment, hockey created a rule that penalizes a hockey player’s performance. It can even happen with goalies if they make contact with a player in the crease, but act otherwise.

Updated Tripping rules in 2014

Both tripping and diving/embellishing were changed in 2014, along with quite a few others as seen here.

Tripping was changed to give players a two minute penalty, even if the defending player is able to get to the puck. But, the rule change involved removing the opportunity for defensive players to actually benefit from the penalty.

In some cases, players are awarded with penalty shot, but if a dive actually happens after contact with the puck, no penalty shot will be awarded. If players dive, they and their head coaches can be fined up to $5000 for repeat offenses.

Slew footing in 2001

In 2001, tripping was known as slew footing and was commonplace in minor league hockey.

tripping penaltyThe origin of the name comes from players using their feet to knock the opposing player off of his feet, generally from behind. The move was helpful, but dangerous because the player who is tripped often lands on his back, tailbone, or head.

Many players who were victims of slew footing ended up with concussions. Players who have been slew footed are easy to spot because they are on their backs with their feet in the air.

Tripping Removed from the game in 1800s

Tripping has been a violation of the rules for as long as organized hockey has been played in North America.

In the early stages of hockey, referees were able to remove the offending player from the ice for as long as the referee saw fit. The referee could even remove the offending player for the remainder of the game.

Final Thoughts on the Tripping rule

Unfortunately, tripping and embellishing are both forms of poor sportsmanship.

Players who trip other player should be penalized, especially if they trip them from behind. But, diving and embellishing with the goal of increasing the tripping penalty can be just as bad, especially when thinking of sportsmanship.

The idea that players who embellish their falls are penalized financially seems a bit outrageous. The players who cause the trips, especially if they are slew-footed trips or trips that result in concussions, should be penalized with more than two minutes in the box.