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The devastating hits keep on coming. Last night, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens was knocked head first into the partition at the end of the glass near the players’ bench. Pacioretty was skating after a loose puck when mammoth defenseman Zdeno Chara drove him into the boards right in front of the Boston Bruins' bench. Extending his arms to finish the check, the 6'9" blueliner sent the Habs forward face-first into the divider.
There’s no evidence of malicious intent on Chara's part. But that doesn’t matter. The hit sent Pacioretty crumbling to the ice, where he remained motionless for several minutes until emergency crews lifted him onto a stretcher. He was rushed to an area hospital, where he’s been reportedly diagnosed with a severe concussion and possible neck injury.
Hockey players: this was a great example of what not to do when body checking. The argument can be made that Chara’s hit was legal; he did initiate contact from the side of Pacioretty, not from behind. However, the checking player must be aware of the dangers of these types of plays.
In 2009, USA Hockey magazine published an instructional piece in its “Tips From The Stars” section on the fundamentals of body checking. Featuring Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole, the article said, “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.”
Continue reading for tips on angling and checking along the boards, as well as how to protect yourself on the receiving end of a hit.
According to Cole, forcing the puck carrier toward the boards in the direction you want is the key to carrying out a proper body check. This is called "angling."
- Stay stick-to-stick and body-to-body with puck carrier
- Continue skating when close to puck carrier—don’t glide into the check
- Focus on player, not puck
- Aim to hit a point on boards in front of puck carrier
- Keep your body low and legs spread for balance
- Use legs to drive shoulder into puck carrier, keeping head up and stick down at all times
When skating into a corner to retrieve the puck, use a body or stick fake to avoid being a stationary target, advises Cole. Keep your skates parallel to the boards, and move out of the corner as soon as you pick up the puck.
If you can’t avoid the check, put yourself in a low, stable position—with your head up, knees bent and feet apart—to accept the contact.
If you’re facing the boards and at risk for a check from behind, get your stick and gloves up on the glass to spread the area of impact, using your arms to absorb the force.
Source: USA Hockey Magazine