I’ve been asked this question quite a bit recently: “Why should my Squirt or Peewee learn how to check before they are able to?”. And there are several reasons why younger players should learn to receive and deliver a body check before they become Bantams: 1) Body Checking involves positioning that should be taught as a precursor to actual body contact, and 2) players should develop good habits of puck protection when they are younger, so players don’t have to break bad habits, once they are able to be body checked.
Before describing what the purpose of Body Checking is, it is important to first outline what Body Checking is NOT: Body Checking is not an attempt to hurt, injure, nor intimidate an opponent. Body Checking is also not focusing on Body Checking at the expense of good defensive positioning.
Which begs the question: “What is the purpose of Body Checking?” The basic answer to that question is relatively simple: Body Checking is the art of separating one’s opponent from the puck, while maintaining defensive body position. A large portion of Body Checking involves “angling an opponent”. Angling an opponent means taking certain space away from an opponent, forcing the opponent to an area you want him to go. Once the opponents options are limited to the space you are giving him, then you can close the gap between you and your opponent to make body contact. Angling involves skating, body posture, and stick positioning, all which can be taught as a precursor to actual body contact, making it easier to teach the final aspect of body checking, when the player gets older and body checking becomes legal.
Conversely, players need to be taught how to receive a body check. There are several concepts players are able to use prior to body checking being legal. Players need to be taught not to put themselves in vulnerable positions (i.e. not standing 3 feet away from the boards, facing the boards), to prepare for body contact, and how to receive a body check the most efficient way possible. Preparing a player early on, to not put themselves in vulnerable positions on the ice, will develop good habits when they are young, they won’t have to break when they become older. Learning how to brace their bodies for impact by lowering their bodies, absorbing contact with their shoulder and hip, will help develop good habits early on as well.
Lastly, most of body checking begins with angling and stick positioning. Angling and stick positioning are effective skills to learn and can be implemented by young players in their current game play. If a young player is proficient with stick positioning and angling, it will be much easier to teach that player proper body checking technique when the time comes for them to implement body checking into their game.
In summary, it is important for players of all ages to learn 1) the concept and purpose of body checking, 2) how to use stick position and angling to take away an opponent's time and space, and 3) how to protect themselves from potential injury by not putting themselves in vulnerable positions on the ice.
The IceBarn Checking/Body Positioning Clinics are designed to teach players of all ages how to properly angle an opponent, how to use stick positioning to effectively defend, how not to put themselves in vulnerable positions on the ice, and finally, how to deliver and receive a body check in the safest manner possible.