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How to Master Body Checking in Ice Hockey: A Complete Guide

Ice hockey is a physically demanding and fast-paced game where players must utilise their bodies to outwit their opponents. Ice hockey requires the legal act of body checking, which is frequently employed to scare opponents, defend, and open scoring opportunities. Body checking is seen as a crucial and necessary part of the game by many players and coaches, despite certain safety concerns.

We will be talking about the significance of body checking in ice hockey, along with how it affects player growth, defensive tactics, rules and regulations & overall gameplay. In addition to that, I’ll share ice hockey tips and techniques for mastering safe and effective body checking!

Key Takeaways

  • Body checking is a legal defensive tactic used in ice hockey to gain control of the puck, but it comes with certain safety concerns.
  • Body checking techniques include shoulder checks, hip checks, and checking along the board, with shoulder checks being the most commonly used.
  • Rules and regulations governing body checking include legal checks, timing, dispatch area, penalties, and age limitations.
  • To perform a safe and effective body check, players should focus on timing, positioning, body contact, and follow-through.
  • Types of body checks include shoulder check, hip check, poke check, stick check, press check, sweep check, angling, and open-ice check.
  • Proper equipment, including helmets, skates, shoulder and elbow pads, mouthguards, jockstraps, gloves, shin guards, and pants, is crucial for player safety.
  • Practicing body checking techniques can improve players’ skills, effectiveness, and confidence on the ice while reducing the risk of injury.

What is Body Checking in Ice Hockey?

In a hockey game, body checking technique is an acceptable defensive tactic to seize control of the puck. A body check is when a player from the opposing team intentionally utilises his torso, hips and shoulders to stop or block another player.

A player may be slammed against a wall or suffer a dangerous fall on the ice as a result of the force used in a body check.

Shoulder checks, hip checks, and checking along the board are all examples of body checks. The shoulder check is among the most often performed actions. It is typical for a defenseman to employ it while he is eliminating an attacker.

There are various distinct kinds of body checks that occur throughout hockey games. The majority of checking is done using a stick check and a body check. The most frequent method of conducting a body check is typically shoulder checking. A hip check happens when an opponent skates backwards while pushing his hip firmly into the back of a defenseman. When a defender uses his hips to shoot at or below the knees, he commits a penalty.

body checking ice hockey

Understanding the Rules and Regulations for Body Checking

Here are some of the basic rules and regulations governing body checking in ice hockey:

Legal check

Only when the other player is in possession of the puck is body checking permitted. Interference is committed when an opponent is checked while not in possession of the puck.

Timing

To prevent potentially harmful collisions, body checking must be timed properly. A player may not strike an opponent from behind or strike an opponent who is currently involved with another player or is in a precarious situation.

Dispatch area

The body, not the head, neck, or knees, must be the target of a body check on the opponent. This protects athletes from potentially fatal injuries.

Penalties

Depending on the severity of the violation, a player who violates the body-checking regulations may be subject to a minor, major, or game misconduct penalty.

Mastering body checking techniques is crucial, but it’s equally important to understand the consequences of penalties in the game. Dive into our guides on PIM in Hockey and Hockey Penalties to grasp the impact and importance of player penalties.

Age Limitation

In order to protect players, body checking might be prohibited or age restrictions might be put in place at some levels of youth hockey.

Referee judgement

Any disagreement regarding the legality of a body check must be resolved by the referee. The guilty player may be punished if the referee determines the hit was unlawful.

Note- To ensure that the game is played safely and fairly, it is crucial that players and coaches are aware of the rules and regulations set forth by the regulating organisation.

Have a look at below table. It provides summary of the essential rules and regulations governing body checking in ice hockey.

Rule / RegulationDescriptionPenalty (Minor/Major/Game Misconduct)
ChargingPlayers are not allowed to take more than three strides before delivering a body check.Minor or Major penalty
ClippingPlayers cannot deliver a check by making contact with an opponent's legs below the knees.Minor or Major penalty
Elbowing and KneeingPlayers are not allowed to use their elbow or knee to deliver a body check.Minor or Major penalty
Leaving Feet During CheckPlayers are not allowed to leave their feet to deliver a body check (no jumping or leaping).Minor or Major penalty
TargetingPlayers must not target the head, neck or back of an opponent during a body check.Minor or Major penalty/Game Misconduct
BoardingBody checking an opponent violently into the boards is not allowed and may result in a penalty.Minor or Major penalty/Game Misconduct
Slew FootingPlayers cannot use their leg or foot to knock an opponent's feet out from under them during a body check.Minor or Major penalty/Game Misconduct
Legal Body Checking ZoneBody checking is only permitted in the defensive zone and neutral zone, not in the attacking zone.Minor penalty
InterferencePlayers cannot initiate body checks on opponents who do not have possession of the puck.Minor penalty
Age RestrictionBody checking is typically not allowed in youth leagues (12 and under), but allowed in older age groups.Not applicable

Proper Body Checking Techniques

hockey player using body check

In order to be effective while lowering the danger of damage, proper body checking calls for a mix of timing, skill, and safety. We recommend executing body checks properly and in accordance with the game’s rules, players must practise and acquire these crucial skills. For an effective and safe body check in ice hockey, there are several critical components that must be present. We are detailing a few of them here: 

Tips for Executing Each Element Effectively

1. Approaching the opponent

The opponent’s midsection and hips should be the player’s primary targets when making a check, as opposed to the head, neck, or knees. This lessens the possibility of suffering a serious injury. In order to effectively body-check an opponent, you must hit hard enough to stop their play and force a turnover.

2. Positioning and timing

Timing is essential for effective body checking. To prevent attacking an opponent from behind or while they are in a vulnerable situation, such as when they are currently engaged with another player, players must time their checks precisely. A body check must be performed with the right technique by players. This entails maintaining good body alignment throughout the check, keeping their feet shoulder-width apart, and remaining balanced.

3. Body contact and follow-through

It is essential to ensure the well-being of all participants in a body check. Players must observe the game’s regulations, refrain from making careless or risky hits, and take care not to hurt either themselves or their opponents.

Types of Body Checks

  1. Shoulder check – An opponent is separated from the puck or prevented from advancing by a player using a “shoulder check”, which is a defensive technique in which a player turns their shoulder in that direction. When defending against an opponent along the boards, this is frequently used.
  2. Hip check- A defensive technique known as a “hip check” involves a player using their hip to throw an opponent off balance or push them off the puck. When an opponent is skating towards the player’s side, this kind of check is frequently utilised.
  3. Poke check- A Poke check is a defensive manoeuvre in which a player pokes the puck with the blade of their stick, typically when an opponent is skating with the puck. The purpose of a poke check is to impede or dislodge the opponent’s possession of the puck.
  4. Stick check– A Stick check is a defensive manoeuvre in which a player makes contact with the stick of an opposing player in an effort to knock the puck away or stop the opponent from making a play. There are several techniques to do a stick check, including brushing the stick across the stick of the opponent, tapping the stick to jar the opponent’s hold, and lifting the opponent’s stick.

A concise overview of the various types of body checks in ice hockey, including their effectiveness and associated risk of injury.

Type of Body CheckBrief DescriptionEffectiveness or Risk
Shoulder CheckUsing the shoulder to contact opponent's chest or side.Effective; Moderate risk of injury
Hip CheckLowering body to contact opponent's waist or hip with own hip.Highly effective; Low risk of injury
Stick CheckUsing stick to lift or poke at opponent's stick.Effective; Low risk of injury
Poke CheckQuick jab with stick to knock puck away, no body contact.Moderate effectiveness; Low risk of injury
Press CheckPinning opponent against boards with body.Effective for containment; Moderate risk of injury
Sweep CheckSweeping puck away with stick, combined with body contact.Moderate effectiveness; Moderate risk of injury
AnglingSteering opponent to limit options, create body checking chance.Effective for control; Low risk of injury
Open-Ice CheckBody check away from boards, using shoulder or hip.Highly effective; High risk of injury

 

Safe and Effective Body-Checking Strategies

The attacking player’s chances of scoring are decreased when the defence presses a check. Cross-checking is not permitted and can lead to severe injury. By using extreme force to shove a helpless opponent into the boards, a player is said to be “boarding.” In hockey, the act of checking someone with an extended elbow is known as “elbowing” and is quite dangerous.

Hockey players who use their sticks to grab the attacking player by the collar and take up position are given a hooking penalty. It is forbidden for an attacking player to check for body checking while holding the puck. It is crucial to take safety precautions when body checkup. The player gets hit on the side of the torso, behind the back and beneath the waist to execute the hip check. Keep the following safe and efficient body-checking strategies in mind while playing ice hockey:

1. Reading the play and anticipating the opponent’s moves

Timing is everything when it comes to body checking. To make a secure and reliable check, it’s critical to anticipate your opponent’s movements and position yourself appropriately. Avoid checking behind your opponent or blindsiding them to avoid penalties or severe injuries.

2. Using angles and positioning to your advantage

Using a safe and effective technique is crucial while performing a body examination. Use your entire body to make contact with the opponent while keeping your head up and your eyes forward. To retain your position and stop the opponent from passing you, make contact with your opponent using your shoulder rather than your head and continue to move your feet after the check. Correct body checking requires perseverance and practice.

3. Maintaining control and balance during the check

Respect your opponents and the game’s rules at all times. Never perform risky or careless checks, and never purposefully aim to hurt or harm your opponent. Keep in mind that player protection should always come first. Work on your technique and timing with your coach and teammates, and practise executing safe and efficient checks in game-like scenarios. 

Importance of Protective Gear and Injury Prevention

Ice hockey is a team sport where communication is crucial. To prevent collisions and from double-checking the same opponent, make sure to communicate with your teammates while on the ice. To make sure that everyone is on the same page and adhering to the rules and regulations of body checking, you should also interact with your coach. 

Wear the appropriate safety equipment and protective gear, which should include a hockey helmet with a face shield or visor, shoulder and elbow pads, gloves, shin guards, and a mouthguard. This will lessen the chance that you will get hurt during a check during the course of the game. These techniques will help you perform body checks that are both safe and efficient while reducing the possibility of injury prevention. 

Tips for Choosing the Right Equipment 

Safety, comfort, and fit should all be taken into consideration when selecting equipment. To discover the best gear for you, be sure to  on several various brands and types. For sustained protection and safety on the ice, don’t forget to maintain and replace equipment as needed. Here are our suggestions to select the right gear for ice hockey:

Helmet: The most crucial component of ice hockey equipment is the helmet. With the chin strap firmly fastened, it should fit snugly and pleasantly on the head. Choose helmets that adhere to safety regulations set by organisations like the HECC, CSA, and ASTM.

Skates: Skates should be comfortable and snugly fit on the feet, allowing for toe movement. To find the perfect fit, make sure to do your research on several different hockey brands and models. Look for skates with a strong blade and decent ankle support.

Shoulder pads: Shoulder pads should allow for easy arm movement while fitting firmly on the shoulders and chest. Look for pads with adjustable straps for a tailored fit and good protection.

Elbow pads: With freedom for arm movement, elbow pads should fit tightly on the elbows. Look for pads with adjustable straps for a tailored fit and good protection.

Mouthguard: Mouthguards ought to be secure against the gums and teeth. Look for guards that are both comfortable to wear and provide sufficient protection.

Jockstrap: Jockstraps should allow for easy leg movement while being snug around the waist and hips. Choose jockstraps with a comfortable lining and good protection.

Gloves: Gloves should have room for finger movement and fit tightly on the hands. Look for gloves with a soft interior that provides adequate protection.

Shin guards: Shin guards should be comfortable to wear and leave room for the knees to move. Look for guards with strong protection and movable straps for a personalised fit.

Pants: Pants should have room for leg movement and fit comfortably around the waist and hips. Look for trousers with a cosy lining that provides decent protection.

FAQs About Body Checking in Ice Hockey

Can you body check in ice hockey?

Yes, body checking is a legal defensive tactic used in ice hockey.

What happens when you body check in hockey?

When you body check in hockey, you use your body to legally hit an opponent to separate them from the puck or to gain possession of the puck. The impact can range from a light nudge to a full-body hit depending on the technique used.

What is an illegal body check in hockey?

An illegal body check in hockey is one that violates the rules and regulations governing body checking, such as hitting an opponent from behind, targeting the head or neck, or using excessive force.

When can you body check in hockey?

In ice hockey, body checking is legal in certain situations and at certain levels of play. The timing and legality of body checking can vary depending on factors such as the age and skill level of the players and the specific rules of the league or organization.

How do you avoid body checks in hockey?

To avoid body checks in hockey, players can use strategies such as changing direction quickly, protecting the puck with their body, or passing the puck before an opponent can make contact.

What is considered body checking?

Body checking in ice hockey is the act of using your body to legally hit an opponent to separate them from the puck or to gain possession of the puck.

Why is body checking not allowed in women’s hockey?

Body checking is not allowed in women’s hockey at certain levels of play to prioritize player safety and reduce the risk of injury, as female players tend to be smaller and have less body mass and strength compared to male players. Additionally, many female players have expressed a preference for a non-checking style of play.

Conclusion

Athletes are susceptible to a variety of injuries in all strenuous sports and Hockey is no different. Ice hockey tips and body-checking tactics need to be practised by players for a variety of reasons. Practising body-checking methods is crucial for ice hockey player success, safety, and development. Players can improve their  skills and effectiveness on the ice while lowering their risk of damage to themselves and their opponents by concentrating on good technique, timing, and angling.

Players can enhance their abilities by practising body-checking techniques. The various body checks can be practised to help players improve their execution and confidence. This can improve your performance on the rink and help the team win.

We will continue to debate the appropriate practices for protecting hockey players while they compete in a highly physical sport. So keep scrolling. The discussion will go on!

See you soon!

References

USA Hockey’s Checking Progression

Hockey Canada’s Body Checking Resource Guide

IIHF Rule Book

National Hockey League Rulebook

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