Embellishment is a widely discussed topic in hockey. If you have ever watched soccer, you may see embellishment every time someone is touched. But in hockey it’s much less common. So what is embellishment in hockey, and why do most people get the rule wrong?

What is embellishment?

Embellishment when a player “dives” or “embellishes” in an attempt to draw a penalty on another player. An example would be when someone is hit in the face with a stick (or even if the stick just got close to their face but did not actually hit them) and they dramatize their injury so it looks much worse than it actually is.

Another example would be if someone is hit by another player, but they intentionally fall to make it look like a worse hit than it actually was.

USA Hockey embellishment rule

Although players continue to embellish in adult hockey leagues in the United States, embellishment is not actually a rule in the USA Hockey rulebook.

According to a USA Hockey:

There are no “diving” or “embellishment” penalties in the USA Hockey Playing Rules. However, this type of behavior (which is not in the spirit of the game) should be brought to the attention of the team’s coach who should correct the behavior.

However, depending on the referee and how bad the embellishment was, some refs will call an unsportsmanlike penalty in USA Hockey leagues.

Other leagues

Although we generally cover USA Hockey on this site, it’s particularly important to cover other leagues for the embellishment rule specifically. Although USA Hockey does not recognize embellishment, other leagues do.

Hockey Canada’s embellishment rule

Hockey Canada’s rule 10.3 says:

“Diving” is the action of a Player trying to draw a penalty against an opponent where no foul occurred. “Embellishment” means that the victim makes the impression of a foul look more serious than it truly was, even though a foul has been committed. Either action may be penalized under this rule.

  • 10.3 (a) A Minor penalty for Rule 11.1 (a) – Unsportsmanlike Conduct will be assessed to any player who dives or embellishes, in order to draw a penalty. This penalty may be assessed with or without a penalty to the opposing team, at the discretion of the Referee.
  • 10.3 (b) No Major penalty may be assessed for diving.
  • 10.3 (c) No Match penalty may be assessed for diving.
  • 10.3 (d) No Misconduct penalty may be assessed for diving.
  • 10.3 (e) No Game Misconduct penalty may be assessed for diving.

NHL’s embellishment rule

The NHL also has an embellishment or diving penalty, which is a 2-minute minor penalty. However, the player will be placed under review and may also be fined for their embellishment. Their coach may also be fined.

The NHL’s Rule 64 says:

  • 64.1 Any player who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule. A goalkeeper who deliberately initiates contact with an attacking player other than to establish position in the crease, or who otherwise acts to create the appearance of other than incidental contact with an attacking player, is subject to the assessment of a minor penalty for diving / embellishment.
  • 64.2 Minor Penalty – A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who attempts to draw a penalty by his actions (“diving / embellishment”).
  • 64.3 Fines and Suspensions – As outlined in League issued memorandum distributed to all teams prior to the 2015-2016 season.

Hockey embellishment

Hockey embellishment is a very gray rule, which is why it’s so important for most people to understand. Most good refs will understand when you are taking a dive and when a real penalty has happened — so doing it and risking a penalty are just not worth it in the end.