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How do we introduce Body Checking?

By Dan Pollard, 10/31/17, 3:45PM EDT

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body checking

Photo Credit: Tim Bates/OJHL Images

In 2013, Hockey Canada announced that bodychecking would be introduced at the Bantam age group which sparked a large debate about the right age to introduce this skill. It was designed to help create a standard across the country of bringing bodychecking into the same age across the board.

Bodychecking should be looked at as a skill with the intention of getting possession of the puck. It can be developed like any other skill but the focus in earlier age groups should be on the fundamentals.

“If we have the ability for the kids to learn those technical skills, be confident, comfortable, that’s number one for all players,” said Ian Taylor, Executive Director of the OMHA. “Then you get to the players in the Minor Bantam age group who are playing rep hockey, they can add that. They would have a base of those other skills. They can participate in hockey that has body checking. But no question, everyone’s going to benefit from having those base of skills.”

Think about the men’s league game at your local arena. Players are there because they love the sport of hockey, not bodychecking their opponents.

The focus for players when it comes to bodychecking should be to get the puck instead of using it as an intimidation tactic. With the speed of the game changing, picking a player simply for size over skill is no longer the way to go.

“One thing people have to remember is that body checking is a skill and as such it has to be treated like that as all the other skills in our game,” said Kevin Hamilton, Director of Hockey Development with the OMHA. “Not necessarily a fundamental skill, it’s probably a more advanced skill. What we have to ensure is continuity in what our coaches are teaching our players. For example, the players that are entering Bantam hockey, in that Peewee year, their Peewee coaches should be preparing them for that and not just having them introduced as soon as their Bantam year begins. That forms part of the four-step progression of teaching.”

There is a difference between bodychecking and body contact. A game without bodychecking is not less competitive.

hockey bodycheck

Photo Credit: Tim Bates/OJHL Images

“Eight year olds are going to collide with each other, with the other team, with the net, it’s the nature of it,” said Taylor. “That part, having an awareness on the ice, the ability to skate, knowing your surroundings, these are all skills that have to be put into place before you have two players hitting each other.”

“Body contact in the scope of puck pursuit and what happens when players engage in puck pursuit, there’s incidental contact happening there versus the intent of body checking which is to gain advantage through physical contact,” said Hamilton.

Regardless of age or level of hockey, the number one priority should always be player safety.

“We do want the game to be safe. We’ve eliminated head contact, the incidental and purposeful head contact,” said Taylor. “We’ve got to realize we need respect in in the game, that body checking is a skill. I think if we tie all that up together, it can be a real clean progression.”


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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