Checking (ice hockey)

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Checking in ice hockey is any of a number of defensive techniques aimed at disrupting an opponent with possession of the puck or separating them from the puck entirely. Most types are not subject to penalty.



Young boys are taught proper body checking technique. (c. 1956) Body checking lesson.jpg
Young boys are taught proper body checking technique. (c. 1956)
Body checking
A player drives the shoulder, upper arm and hip and elbow, equally into the opponent to separate them from the puck, using the body to knock an opponent against the boards or to the ice. This is often referred to as simply checking or hitting and is only permitted against an opponent with possession of the puck. Body checking can be penalized when performed recklessly. It is considered an "illegal hit" in IIHF women's hockey and is punishable by a minor penalty, major penalty and automatic game misconduct, or match penalty. [1]
When a player drops to a near-crouching stance and swings his hips toward an opposing player, sending the opponent off balance, often falling to the ice. Mostly done up against the boards. A hit at or below the knees is considered an infraction in the National Hockey League, and called "clipping".
A player puts his shoulder into his opponent to muscle the opponent out of position. The elbow must be tucked in, or the player risks taking a penalty for elbowing.
Poke checking
Using the stick to poke the puck away from an opponent. Mostly done while the defensive player goes straight at the puck carrier and hitting the puck out of his possession before making physical contact.
Sweep checking
Using the stick in a sweeping motion to knock the puck away from opponents or deter them from passing.
Stick checking
Using the stick to interfere with an opponent's stick.
It refers to skating done in the offensive zone, often to recover possession of the puck after a dump in or turnover.
Rushing back to the defensive zone in response to an opposing team's attack. Players often try to 'rub up' behind the player with the puck to bother them. At the same time they try to hit the puck away with their stick.
The act of checking an opponent with the shaft of the stick held in both hands and with arms extended. This is illegal and earns a minor or major penalty depending on the severity of the infraction.
Lift checking
A player lifts or knocks an opponent's stick upwards with his/her stick followed immediately by an attempt to steal the puck. This may also be used by a defenseman to keep an opposing player from deflecting shots when both players are positioned in front of the net.
Press checking
A type of hockey stick check used to stop or control the movement of an opponent's stick by placing stick pressure over the top of the opponent's stick.

Rules on checking

Illegal checking

Charging, hitting from behind and boarding are examples of illegal hits. Charging occurs when a player takes three or more strides going into the check, and sometimes includes leaving the feet to deliver the hit. Boarding is when a check violently throws a defenseless player into the boards. [2] Due to their dangerous nature and increased likelihood of causing serious injury, these hits can have penalties ranging from a minor two-minute penalty to a major and game misconduct, along with a $100 fine in the NHL. [2] In women's ice hockey, any body checking is a penalty and is also not allowed in leagues with young children. Men's amateur leagues typically allow checking unless stipulated otherwise in league rules. Some intramural university leagues do not permit body checking, in order to avoid injury and incidents of fighting. "Leaning" against opponents is an alternative to body checking but can be penalized for holding if abused. Many studies have been done regarding injuries in hockey that have caused stricter rule enforcement in the 2010s. [3] [4] There have been decreases in the number of concussions and other serious injuries since these changes.

Beginning with the 2010–11 NHL season, any form of "lateral or blind side hit to an opponent, where the player's head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact" (which is known as an illegal check to the head) became prohibited. That season, an illegal check to the head is punishable with either a major penalty and game misconduct or a match penalty. [5] This new rule was instituted as a result of concussion injuries to NHL players in previous seasons. In the 2011–12 NHL season, any hit to an opponent, where the player's head is targeted and the principal point of contact" (which is known as an illegal check to the head) became prohibited. An illegal check to the head is punishable with either a two-minute minor penalty or a match penalty. In the 2013–14 NHL season, the rule was clarified to a hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted (which is known as an illegal check to the head) became prohibited. An illegal check to the head is punishable with either a two-minute minor penalty or a match penalty.Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head

New NHL standard of rule enforcement, 2005–06

For the 2005–06 season, the NHL instituted stricter enforcement of many checking violations that in previous seasons would not have been penalized. The intent of the new standard of enforcement was to fundamentally alter the way ice hockey is played, rewarding speed and agility over brute strength, as well as increasing opportunities for scoring and minimizing stoppage of play. However, it is unclear how expanding the definition of a penalty would minimize the stoppage of play, as penalty calls entail play stoppage. One explanation may be that more clearly defined rules give players more distinct boundaries on penalties, resulting in fewer penalties. The intended result is a faster-paced game with generally higher scores than in previous years. [6]

New USA Hockey rules on checking, 2011–12

Beginning in the 2011–12 season, USA Hockey moved the age of legal body checking from 12U to 14U. [7] The discussion of this rule change began with a look into Peewee (12U) and Squirt (10U) levels of hockey. Through observation, it was clear that Squirts skate more aggressively and try to play in the correct manner. Peewees in similar situations would either let the opponent get the puck first so they can check them or hold back so they don't get hit themselves. Injury wasn't an initial concern but with research it was brought into the discussion. Research shows that the 11-year-old brain has not developed skills to anticipate. As a result, Peewees acquire injuries four times more in checking vs. non-checking hockey. [8]

Related Research Articles

Ice hockey team sport played on ice using sticks, skates, and a puck

Ice hockey is a contact team sport played on ice, usually in a rink, in which two teams of skaters use their sticks to shoot a vulcanized rubber puck into their opponent's net to score goals. The sport is known to be fast-paced and physical, with teams usually fielding six players at a time: one goaltender, and five players who skate the span of the ice trying to control the puck and score goals against the opposing team.

"Power play" is a sporting term used to describe a period of play where one team has a numerical advantage in players usually due to a rule violation by the opposing team.

Roger Paul Neilson, was a Canadian professional ice hockey coach, most notably in the National Hockey League (NHL), and was responsible for many innovations in the game. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category.

Goaltender Person who blocks the goal in ice hockey

In ice hockey, the goaltender or goalie is the player responsible for preventing the hockey puck from entering their team's net, thus preventing the opposing team from scoring. The goaltender usually plays in or near the area in front of the net called the goal crease. Goaltenders tend to stay at or beyond the top of the crease to cut down on the angle of shots. In today's age of goaltending there are two common styles, butterfly and hybrid. Because of the power of shots, the goaltender wears special equipment designed to protect the body from direct impact. The goalie is one of the most valuable players on the ice, as their performance can greatly change the outcome or score of the game. One-on-one situations, such as breakaways and shootouts, have the tendency to highlight a goaltender's pure skill, or lack thereof. No more than one goaltender is allowed to be on the ice for each team at any given time. Teams are not required to use a goaltender and may instead opt to play with an additional skater, but the defensive disadvantage this poses generally means that the strategy is only used as a desperation maneuver when trailing late in a game or can be used if the opposing team has a delayed penalty.

Penalty (ice hockey) Punishment for breaking the rules in ice hockey

A penalty in ice hockey is a punishment for an infringement of the rules. Most penalties are enforced by sending the offending player to a penalty box for a set number of minutes. During the penalty the player may not participate in play. Penalties are called and enforced by the referee, or in some cases, the linesman. The offending team may not replace the player on the ice, leaving them short-handed as opposed to full strength. When the opposing team is said to be on a power play, they will have one more player on the ice than the short-handed team. The short-handed team is said to be "on the penalty kill" until the penalty expires and the penalized player returns to play. While standards vary somewhat between leagues, most leagues recognize several common varieties of penalties, as well as common infractions.

Face-off Method used to begin play in ice hockey and some other sports

A face-off is the method used to begin and restart play after goals in some sports using sticks, primarily ice hockey, bandy and lacrosse. The two teams line up in opposition to each other, and the opposing players attempt to gain control of the puck or ball after it is dropped or otherwise placed between their sticks by an official.

In ice hockey, a penalty shot is a type of penalty awarded when a team loses a clear scoring opportunity on a breakaway because of a foul committed by an opposing player. A player from the non-offending team is given an attempt to score a goal without opposition from any defending players except the goaltender. This is the same type of shot used in a shootout to decide games in some leagues.

Fighting in ice hockey Physical play in ice hockey

Fighting in ice hockey is an established tradition of the sport in North America, with a long history that involves many levels of amateur and professional play and includes some notable individual fights. Fighting may be performed by enforcers, or "goons" —players whose role is to fight and intimidate—on a given team, and is governed by a system of unwritten rules that players, coaches, officials, and the media refer to as "the code". Some fights are spontaneous, while others are premeditated by the participants. While officials tolerate fighting during hockey games, they impose a variety of penalties on players who engage in fights.

Floor hockey is a family of indoor hockey games.

In ice hockey, a play is offside if a player on the attacking team does not control the puck and is in the offensive zone when a different attacking player causes the puck to completely cross the blue line into the offensive zone, until either the puck or all attacking players leave the offensive zone. Simply put, attacking players must not enter the attacking zone before the puck. If a player on the attacking team is in the offensive zone before the puck, they must retreat to the neutral zone.

Roller in-line hockey team sport played on roller skates

Roller inline hockey, or inline hockey is a variant of hockey played on a hard, smooth surface, with players using inline skates to move and hockey sticks to shoot a hard, plastic puck into their opponent's goal to score points. There are five players including the goalkeeper from each team on the rink at a time, while teams normally consist of 16 players.

Clipping is a penalty in the sport of ice hockey. It is generally recognized as hitting an opposing player at or below the other player's knees. Clipping should not be confused with hip checking, where one player hits an opponent with his hips, although occasionally a hip check will result in a clipping call. A player is generally assessed a minor penalty for clipping, unless an injury is caused, in which case a major penalty and a misconduct or game misconduct will result. It is one of the most rarely called penalties in the sport.


High-sticking is the name of two infractions in the sport of ice hockey that may occur when a player intentionally or inadvertently plays the puck with his or her stick above the height of the shoulders or above the cross bar of a hockey goal. This can result in a penalty or a stoppage of play. In the rules of the National Hockey League, high-sticking is defined as a penalty in Rule 60 and as a non-penalty foul in Rule 80.

National Hockey League rules

The National Hockey League rules are the rules governing the play of the National Hockey League (NHL), a professional ice hockey organization. Infractions of the rules, such as offside and icing, lead to a stoppage of play and subsequent to the offending teams. The league also determines the specifications for playing equipment used in its games.

Hooking is a penalty in ice hockey. The National Hockey League defines it in Rule 55 as "the act of using the stick in a manner that enables a player or goalkeeper to restrain an opponent."

This is a list of common terms used in ice hockey along with the definition of these terms.

No goal is a call made by referees in various goal-scoring sports to indicate that a goal has not been scored. It is commonly used to disallow an apparent goal, such as when the ball or puck has entered the net but should not count as a score due to some foul or infraction.

Slashing in ice hockey is a penalty called when an offending player swings their hockey stick at an opposing player, regardless of contact, or breaks an opposing player's stick with their own. Such a penalty may range from a minor penalty to a match penalty, depending on the seriousness of the injury to the opposing player.

Cross-checking is an infraction in the sport of ice hockey where a player checks an opponent by using the shaft of his or her stick with both hands. In the rules of the National Hockey League, cross-checking is defined in Rule 59, while the International Ice Hockey Federation rules define it in Rule 127.

The Hockey Canada Officiating Program(sometimes abbreviated HCOP or less commonly CHOP) is the governing body for on-ice officials for all ice hockey games played under the jurisdiction of Hockey Canada. The Hockey Canada Rulebook provides in-depth explanation and examples of all rules governing hockey in Canada.


  1. "Rule 169 – Illegal Hit (Women)" (PDF). IIHF Official Rule Book 2014–2018. International Ice Hockey Federation. p. 96. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  2. 1 2 "Rule 41 - Boarding". National Hockey League. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  3. Lorentzon, MD, PhD, Ronny; Wedrèn, MD, Hans; Pietilä, RPT, Tom (1988). "Incidence, nature, and causes of ice hockey injuries A three-year prospective study of a Swedish elite ice hockey team". The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 16 (4): 392–6. doi:10.1177/036354658801600415. PMID   3189665.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. Flik, MD, Kyle; Lyman, PhD, Stephen; Marx, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Robert (2005). "American Collegiate Men's Ice Hockey: An Analysis of Injuries". The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 33 (2): 183–7. doi:10.1177/0363546504267349. PMID   15701603.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head, Official Rules,
  6. [NHL] Rules Changes: Probing The Brave New Hockey World
  7. [USA Hockey] Body Checking Rule, archived from the original on January 3, 2012
  8. [USA Hockey] Body Checking Rule Change Proposal [ dead link ]