Checking is one of the most demanding skills in hockey, and also one of the most overlooked by players, coaches and fans. It is probably the least glamorous of all skills, but one of the most important when it comes to defensive team play. Checking is a skill designed to aid in the recovery and possession of the puck. It should not be used to intimidate or injure an opponent.
Tip #1 – Angling
To carry out the proper checks along the boards, you must learn to force the puck carrier towards the boards. The key is to force the puck carrier in the direction you want by angling your opponent into the boards under a controlled speed.
• Keep yourself stick-to-stick and body-to body with the puck carrier
• Continue to skate when close to the puck carrier – don’t glide into the check
• Concentrate on the puck carrier, not the puck
• Aim to hit a point on the boards in front of the puck carrier
• Keep your body low and your legs spread for balance
Tip #2 – Body Checks
There are three major types of body checks: Shoulder check, hip check and checking along the boards. The shoulder check is the most common. It is normally used by a defenseman when taking out an onrushing forward.
• Concentrate on the chest of the attacker since it is the most difficult part of the body to shift quickly
• Keep your feet shoulder width apart
• Bend your knees and keep the weight on the inside edges of the blades
• Use your legs to drive your shoulder into the opponent’s chest. Keep you head up and your stick down at all times.
Tip # 3 – Protecting yourself
Players must learn to protect themselves, especially along the boards. When going into the corner, use some fakes with your body, stick or skates to avoid being a stationary target. Keep your skates parallel to the boards rather than pointing toward the boards.
As soon as you pick up the puck, move out of the area quickly.
If you can’t avoid being checked, position yourself to accept the blow. If you are checked from the side, keep your head up, get a good stable position, feet apart, knees bent, body in a low position, forearms and hands on the boards.
USA Hockey strongly discourages checking from behind, but if it should happen while you’re facing the boards, get your stick and gloves up to spread out the area of impact. Use your arms as shock absorbers.