Girls and boys at all levels of midget hockey and into junior league hockey need to develop good checking habits to avoid injuring themselves and other players. A punishing body check can be perfectly legal when the player is coached properly, and it can change the momentum of a game. We will look at four punishing body checks and explain why they are all perfectly legal to help young players understand the essentials of good checking.
The NHL offers excellent videos that include explanations as to why some hits are legal, while others are not. At 2:07 of this video, we are given an excellent example of a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder check that is used to move a player off the puck. For this check, the offensive player has the puck, which makes him a legal target. The defensive player applies his shoulder to the opposing player’s shoulder and separates that player from the puck.
In ice hockey at any level, it is very important to keep your head up when you have the puck. The first hit on this video is a great example of what can happen when a defensive player delivering a legal check meets an offensive player with his head down. Notice that the point of contact is shoulder-to-shoulder, despite the fact that the offensive player has lowered his shoulders to look at the puck. This is a very responsible but punishing hit that was executed in the proper way.
At this high school hockey game, the hit occurs at the 0:37 mark of the video. The timing of the hit is perfect as the offensive player had just tipped the puck on to a teammate when the defensive player hit him. The point of contact is shoulder-to-chest, and you can see that the defensive player purposely lowered his shoulder to avoid making contact with the offensive player’s head.
At the 0:17 mark of this video we see a great example at the bantam AA level of a defenseman using a clean body check to stand his ground and separate the offensive player from the puck. A shoulder-to-chest hit that results in the offensive player on the ice and the puck moving back into play.
A clean body check can change a game and invigorate a team. The most important thing to remember is that a body check is used to separate a player from the puck, and not to put a player in the hospital.