When your child graduates to the
peewee level and beyond, hockey takes on an entirely
different attitude. Your non-hockey-playing friends
begin to think of you as a bit strange, perhaps even
barbaric. You appear to display admirable parenting
skills and seem to be a loving, providing parent, then
proceed to grant other young hockey players permission
to crash into your child. As if to soften the
anticipated blows, you dress your child (ren), the same
children that are proudly displayed on your living room
coffee table, in protective equipment then encourage
them into battle. It is a little crazy.
is an element of hockey that we both love and hate. It
is the same component that has a history of
simultaneously gaining respect for hockey players while
tarnishing the game’s image. Body contact and physical
play are important parts of hockey, they always have
been, and always will be.
The introduction of “checking” is rightfully an
uncomfortable time for parents and players alike. It is
a strange new world where, each year, thousands of young
hockey players are injured, sometimes seriously. Many of
these injuries can be prevented.
Successful body contact
Balance and confidence on the ice are huge
components of hockey and the main ingredients to
successful body contact. A player lacking these skills
(which stem exclusively from skating proficiency) is at
considerably higher risk of injury as well as becoming a
detriment to your team by taking yourself out of the
The real problems with checking at any level stem
from insufficient skating skills instruction and a
violent image of checking.
The collective efforts to restructure hockey’s image
by hockey leagues worldwide is beginning to pay off.
Hockey is once again moving toward flow and skilled
play. More and more seats in hockey venues are being
filled by fans demanding finesse and endurance rather
than blood-filled, overly aggressive play where the
emphasis is on bone-crushing collisions.
There is a right and a wrong way to check.
Developmental skating and body contact technique
training can do a great deal to eliminate unnecessary
injuries. We need to teach young players the
fundamentals and philosophies of body contact, just as
we do puck control and team play. Did you know that for
every player who is injured receiving a body check, one
is injured giving a body check? Here are a few body
The primary objective of body contact is to tie
up your opponent and separate them from the puck, thus
allowing your team to gain control of the puck. Here are
four key points to safe and effective body contact.
Gauge and adjust your speed: At the time of
contact, your speed should be equal to or slightly
greater than that of your opponent. As “contact” speed
increases, the likelihood of injury and the difficulty
of quickly returning to the play also increase.
Angle your opponent: During a one-on-one
situation near the boards, your angle of attack is
critical. As you angle toward your opponent (decrease
the space between you and the player), they should feel
as if an octopus is closing in on them leaving no
possibility of escape. Imagine placing pylons on the ice
that directs your opponent into your trap. Create a path
that forces your opponent right to you.
Avoid approaching and making contact head-on. You
will take yourself out of the play and oftentimes out of
the game due to an injury. “Locking onto your opponent”
and telegraphing your exact course of travel will give
your opponent several options to skate past you.
Contain your opponent: Once you have made
contact, tie up your opponent, then play the puck if
possible. A few helpful hints:
• Drive through using your legs with deep knee bend.
• Keep your hands down—at chest level to avoid
• Pin them to the boards—place your arm(s) and stick
in front, one leg between their legs, and the other leg
• Do not waste energy trying to crush your opponent.
• Use your feet to kick the puck to a teammate.
the play during body contact. As you battle
with an opponent, the game continues to be played behind
you, so remember two things: One, if you get knocked
down, get up immediately and return to the play. Two, if
you give a great body check, “Don’t break your arm
patting yourself on the back!” Never take yourself out
of the play when playing the body.
Lastly, when receiving a check, think safety first.
The “Danger Zone” is 2-4’ from the boards. If at all
possible, get against the boards to decrease the threat
of neck and back injury. Keep your hands free while
using the boards for leverage. Lastly, practice using
your feet to direct the puck to your stick, or to the
stick of your teammate.
The best preparation is to ensure that you are as
proficient on your skates as possible. Checking is 90%
skating and balance, so a technically sound skater is
less likely to be injured while giving or receiving a
check. Good Luck!