Have you been watching hockey this year and noticed that you see less body checks? Whether it is NHL, Pro, College, Junior, or Youth, the answer is yes. There has been a significant drop at all levels of play. For the fan that grew up with the physicality of 70s and 80s hockey, or the clutching and grabbing of the 90s, you saw a big shift when the new standard of holding, hooking, and stick work made the game faster. Old school hockey fans did not like the change, but the game of hockey has evolved into a beautiful and fast game that requires immense skill, and no longer is beneficial to players that had size.
With the change in speed has come a greater force at which body checks and body contact take place. With the increase in concussion occurrence, the knowledge of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), and overall injuries within hockey, there is now greater concern about the safety of the game. The game is just too fast for the human body, and it was not intended to take hits at great speeds without consequences,
especially youth bodies and brains.
This has prompted many leading officials in the game to create a point of emphasis to eliminate unnecessary body contact and hitting to limit injury.
The game of hockey is not designed to intimidate or hurt its participants and opponents, but rather use skill to defeat them.
The points of emphasis now take out the terms “finishing your check”, and the defense of “the player turned”. It is now the responsibility of the player engaging the contact to be aware of their opponent’s body before applying the check. Hits that are looking to take an opponent out, or intimidate are now gone.
The key focal points for body checking are using proper angles, using the shoulder or hip to lay a body check, having the stick on the ice or below the knees, and making a play on the puck. The purpose of a body check has shifted from “SEPARATING THE MAN FROM THE PUCK” to “GAINING POSSESSION AND CONTROL OF THE PUCK”. When using body contact, there must be a play on the puck. If there is no effort for the puck when contact is given, a penalty will ensue. Also, a change focus is now not using hands to lay a hit. If hands are up, that means two hands are likely not on the stick, and without two hands and stick not being on the ice, there is no play on the puck. A penalty will be given.
This point of emphasis is not changing the written rules of hockey, but rather changing the interpretation and emphasis on how the rules were enforced. It is simple, the game is fast, the game requires skill, and making body contact more meaningful will increase skills, skating, and enjoyment of the game, and hopefully reduce injury! Old school hockey fans may not like the change, but the game has evolved, and so our rule interpretation has to follow.