Hockey is one of the roughest contact sports, but only for older players. In the United States, checking is banned for all youth players ages 10 and younger. Some adult recreational leagues also ban checking to prevent injury. Those players ages 11 and older who are just learning to add contact to the game need to be aware of the fundamentals of a good clean body check. It all starts with skilled skating, keen awareness, good angling and efficient body control.
Body checking can be done only on the puck carrier. Checking an opponent before he has possession of the puck can be ruled as interference. Leaving your skates to launch yourself into an opponent with a check can result in a charging penalty. Violently checking a defenseless player into the boards can be called a boarding penalty, though the definition of "defenseless" has seen many interpretations. And after Matt Cooke likely ended Marc Savard's career with a brutal high check in 2010, the NHL instituted Rule 48, which makes it illegal to check an opponent where the head is the principal point of contact.
A defending players' positioning always depends on the opponents' offensive breakout. On an even-man rush or after a dump-and-chase, the defender should always be between the puck carrier and the net. During odd-man rushes, the defender should be positioned in the passing lane between the puck carrier and the extra attacker. Body checking should never be done while defending odd-man rushes, since it leaves one opponent wide open with space and a potential breakaway opportunity.
Angling and Speed
The objective of angling is to steer the puck carrier into a tight space where you can apply a body check to knock him off the puck. To do this, a defender must maintain a defensive position between the puck carrier and the net, while keeping a stick on the ice in the passing lane. This in turn forces the opponent to try and skate around the defender's far side, often along the side boards. A defender then should skate almost parallel with the puck carrier, taking a slight outward angle to gradually close the gaps between the defender, the puck carrier and the boards, all while maintaining an equal speed to the attacking player. This closing of the gap is usually called "rubbing out" the opponent.
Delivering the Blow
To maintain balance through the check, keep a tripod stance, with the feet shoulder-width apart and your stick on the ice between them. Crouch low to generate more power. Turn your body so that your shoulder is at an angle to the opponent along the boards. Extend your knee furthest from the opponent, tuck in the closest elbow, hold your breath and tighten the upper body muscles. As the opponent gets rubbed out on the board, lean so that the impact is equally absorbed by the shoulder, arm and hip. This will more efficiently separate the puck from the player and avoid injury for either person.
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