Checking is one of the top defensive techniques in ice hockey. In fact, this move is not even considered a penalty — and is essential in getting the puck back to your side. As part of our “Monday Meetups” column, let’s check out some of the top checks in the history of hockey.
As a hockey enthusiast, I’ve always been amazed by the brilliance of checking as both an offensive and defensive maneuver. However, for amateur and junior ice hockey players, it does take some time to perfect this move.
In fact, famed hockey sports writer Greg Wyshynski once said that checking is both the easiest and the hardest move to master. With this in mind, hockey coaching plays a pivotal part in teaching both pros and amateurs the correct ways to disrupt an opponent with possession of the puck. The main goal of checking, however, is to separate them from the puck entirely. Here are some notable checks and hits.
Like many ice hockey fans, I think Wayne Gretzky is a true icon and legend. In fact, number 99 is arguably one of the greatest hockey player ever. However, Gretzky was floored to the ice by Bill McCreary on January 3, 1981. This open ice hit marked the first time that Wayne had been hit hard in his young career. It also opened Gretzky’s eyes to the fact that anyone — of any caliber — can be checked if the opportunity presents itself.
In a match between the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames on October 12, 2006, Dion Phaneuf delivered a perfect open ice check on Denis Hamel. The latter actually flew up in the air a bit before landing on the ice. This iconic check propelled Phaneuf to new heights in his illustrious NHL career.
Back in 1997 in the Stanley Cup Finals between the Red Wings and Flyers, Eric Lindros delivered a picture-perfect hit to Vladimir Konstantinov. In fact, Lindros used his 6′ 4″ 240-pound frame to drive Konstantinov into the boards. To date, this remains one of the biggest hockey checks in NHL and ice hockey history.
It is important for any hockey player, at any level, to incorporate checking in their game. However, having respect for their opponent and understanding the safest way to check is even more important.
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