Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa Photography
No, the game hasn’t become ‘soft’.
And yes, players are still allowed to bodycheck when it is introduced at the Minor Bantam Representative age category.
With a deeper appreciation of player safety among officials, coaches, parents and players, the focus of the game is no longer on physical intimidation or an open-ice hit. The purpose of bodychecking has evolved into gaining possession of the puck. A game without bodychecking is not less competitive. Teaching players at all levels about body contact, including how to properly give and receive a check helps create a safer and more respectful game.
Regardless of age or level of hockey, the number one priority should always be player safety. Players wear the required equipment because it keeps them safe when they give or receive body contact or a bodycheck. Acknowledging the sportsmanship and respect involved can reduce the risk of injury - there is a responsibility from everyone to keep players safe on the ice, including the players themselves.
Photo Credit: Tim Bates/OJHL Images
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A common misconception is that the skill of checking begins at a certain age or category of play. In fact, checking is a 4-Step Progression that begins the first time a young player steps on the ice. Each step builds upon the previous step and brings the hockey player that much closer to being able to give and receive body checks competently and confidently.
There are still physical aspects to the game. As the purpose is to separate the skater from the puck, using positioning, angling and stick checks are the first steps. Reducing an opponent’s time and space to take the puck away are evolutions of body contact used to block the puck carrier’s skating path. From there, players can learn how to give and receive checks in the safest ways possible.
Bodychecking is a critical skill in the game of hockey that when performed properly can create quality scoring opportunities or help a team regain control of the puck. Just like skating, puck control, passing and shooting there are key progressions to the skill of checking that can be taught effectively and improved upon through practice. Bodychecking and body contact are not interchangeable terms and mean two different actions on the ice. As players grow in the game with body contact, they will have an easier transition when bodychecking is allowed.