Why Checking Skills are so Valuable in Hockey

    Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 3:42 PM

    Posted by Mike McPartlin on Mar 17, 2020 3:42:47 PM

    One of the Keys to Moving Up the Hockey Pyramid

    by Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy

    Bridgedale Academy good stick and body position for checking in youth hockey

    A number of years ago I attended a spring AAA Minor Bantam game featuring many excellent players. 

    It was, I knew, one of the very first “checking-allowed” games for both teams. 

    As a longtime AAA bantam coach, I was expecting to see players who were more than anxious to “hit” - but without a clue about how to properly “check.”

    But instead I was very pleasantly surprised.

    Because this game featured two teams with very good checking skills.

    Why was I surprised?

    I was surprised because in 40+ years of coaching, it was the first time I was able to watch such an “early” bantam game and say to myself: 

    Okay, these players - from both teams - are getting it right and their peewee coaches definitely prepared them well for ‘check’ hockey.


    Bridgedale importance of body position while checking in hockeyWhat is it about hockey anyway?

    Hockey is the hardest sport to become even “bad” at.

    Setting aside for now what it takes from the “thinking” side of the game, just look at all the challenging physical skills, each of which contains many sub-skills, that must be first learned and then mastered:

    • Skating
    • Puck Handling
    • Passing and Pass Catching
    • Shooting
    • Checking


    What about hockey’s checking skills?

    Bridgedale importance of Checking stick to stickOf ALL these skills, the least understood - and the least taught - are the checking skills.

    There are two main reasons for this:

    1) practice ice time for most teams is so limited that it’s hard to dedicate enough time to properly teach the checking skills; and

    2) many youth hockey coaches simply don’t know how to teach correct checking skills.


    USA Hockey Checking in Coaching Education Programs

    USA Hockey and 200 x 85 are getting it right

    A positive development with USAH’s Coaching Education Programs has been an emphasis on teaching proper checking skills at the peewee and younger levels.

    200 x 85 Body Contact Clinics and Bridgedale Academy

    In addition, programs like 200 x 85’s upcoming Body Contact Clinics are an outstanding opportunity for young players to develop contact confidence while enhancing their checking skills.


    Why is it so valuable to be an effective checker?

    Bridgedale Academy Importance of Checking in hockeyHaving good checking skills can make a huge difference for a player. Players who understand the checking skills will ALWAYS find a spot on a hockey team.

    A player who knows how to check can:

    • Forecheck effectively
    • Backcheck effectively 
    • Defend the rush effectively
    • Contain opponents in the defensive zone
    • Create turnovers leading to offensive chances


    Bridgedale Academy Believe in Your SonSkills needed for proper checking

    To become effective checkers, young players must first develop a certain level of “contact confidence.”

    This is a particular area where USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program is doing a terrific job.

    But more importantly, the players must learn and be able to execute the following skills and tactics:

    • Skating control while cornering (edges, pivoting and agility maneuvers - forward and backward)
    • Angles and Timing (to take away opponent’s time, space and options)
    • Gap Control and Stick Position (to influence the puck)
    • Match Opponent’s Speed and Direction
    • Make Contact with Balance and Proper Weight Transfer

    And of course they must be able to execute these skills and tactics at game speed and, ideally, with balance and rhythm.



    Checking in hockey should not be confused with hitting. The best checkers in the NHL are rarely big hitters.

    A young player who develops outstanding checking skills will have a distinct advantage over those players who do not. He will have a much greater opportunity to move up the hockey pyramid to the higher levels of competition.


    Bridgedale Academy Classical Education for Middle School hockey players


    And what do Bridgedale teachers say about Bridgedale?

    "This is such a special place!! It is life changing for these boys as it centers around strong relationships that encourage strong academic growth. It’s a hockey school, but so much more than that. 

    "It’s a pleasure to come to work everyday. Thank you for creating such a positive, caring environment."

    Kristi Florey, Bridgedale Math Teacher



    Talk to Headmaster

    Bridgedale Academy Classical Education

    Training Elite Student Athletes 


    Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year at Bridgedale has already begun. 

    Bridgedale Academy is an all-boys school for athletes, a prep school for serious youth hockey players, offering grades 5 through 8 each school year. In addition to our winning combination of sports and academics, we focus on leadership training. We use a classical academic curriculum and our graduates go on to attend some of the most prestigious high schools in the country, including Lake Forest Academy, Culver Military Academy, Shattuck St. Mary’s, Northwood School, Benet Academy, Fenwick Prep, St. Ignatius Prep, Marmion Academy, St. Francis HS, Latin School and Providence Catholic. We pride ourselves on being the top youth hockey prep school in the nation. Our hockey successes are many: Twenty (20) of our former or current students have already received their NCAA Division 1 college hockey commitments, with many more sure to follow soon. Seven (7) of our grads have competed for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Two (2) now compete for the University of Notre Dame. One just signed his entry-level contract with the NHL New York Islanders and another with the NHL Anaheim Ducks. Several other Bridgedale grads are now playing junior hockey, including in the USHL, the OHL and the NAHL.
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