What is a Check in Ice Hockey?

A check in hockey is a defensive technique where a player attempts to separate an offensive player from the puck. There are body checks and stick checks, and checks are one of the best ways to stop an opposing team from advancing the puck and scoring.

An NHL game is all about scoring goals. Each team wants to move the puck forward and put the puck in the back of the net as much as possible. One of the best ways to stop a team from doing this is to hit them with their checks.

This guide is going to go over what a check is, highlight some of the most important types of checks, and so much more.

Key Takeaways

  • A check in hockey is a defensive technique that players will use to remove the puck from an offensive player. There are body checks and stick checks, and checking is a skill that is crucial for stopping opposing teams from scoring goals.
  • While there are plenty of legal checks that take place in a game, there are others that will result in a penalty, such as cross checking, boarding, charging, and elbowing.
  • Any player can utilize checks, but there are several players that are known for their checking abilities, such as Scott Stevens, Darius Kasparaitis, Denis Potvin, and Eric Lindros.

What is a Check in Hockey?

A hockey check is a technique that defensive players will use to inhibit offensive players and take the puck from them. Without checks, there is nothing stopping offensive players from skating through the ice without a care in the world.

Checks disrupt the skating of opponents, and make it difficult to hold onto the puck for long periods of time. Checking can also be used as an intimidation tactic or be used to give the crowd or your team a little bit of a boost.

While things like speed and skill are crucial in hockey, it is also an incredibly physical sport. Being able to check better than the opposing team can give you an edge and make your team much more difficult to score on and play against in general.

Types of Checks in Hockey

During a game of hockey, there are several types of checks that can be used to get opposing players off of the puck. The first type of check that you will see is a body check. This is where a player will use their body in some capacity to make contact with another player.

There are many types of body checks, with the most popular being a shoulder check and a hip check. Shoulder checks involve a player leading with a shoulder (while keeping their elbow tucked) and driving their body through the opposing player.

They are very common, and are what most people think of when they imagine a body check. A hip check involves the checking player bending down and leading with the hip to interrupt the movement of the opposing player, and these are generally done along the boards.

These can often be hard hits that knock opposing players to the ice, but even lighter contact can make them lose the puck or slow down their skating speed. In addition to checks made with the body, there are also stick checks that can be effective.

You can use a poke check to knock a puck away, a hook check to steal the puck, or a stick check to disrupt the stick of an opposing player, not the puck. 

There are also some illegal checks that will often result in a penalty. This includes cross checking, charging, elbowing, boarding, and others.

Some of these may only be a two-minute minor penalty, while others can come with more severe penalties and even lead players to being ejected from a game and/or suspended.

Ways to Safely Deliver Checks

While checking is an important part of hockey at the highest level, it can also be dangerous at times. As a result, players need to make an effort to deliver checks safely. Always make sure opposing players see you coming, and watch out for accidentally hitting people in the head.

Do your best to hit them hard enough to knock them off the puck, but you never want to intentionally hurt someone by going overboard. Not only can this injure opposing players, but it can often lead to a penalty or suspension for a player if the hit is deemed unsafe.

Learning how to receive checks is also a good idea. The key here is to be aware of your surroundings, and try to stay in a natural hockey stance. If you try to duck or quickly move your body, you throw yourself off balance, which can lead to a higher chance of injury if you get hit.

It is important to stay moving, and brace yourself for impact. The better prepared you are for the hit arriving, the easier it will be to deal with it and continue playing.

The Best Hitters of All Time

While every player is capable of throwing some checks from time to time, there are certainly some players who are well known for their ability to hit. The player who is widely seen as the best and hardest checker of all time is Scott Stevens.

While some of his hits were certainly questionable and certainly would not have been legal in the modern-day NHL, there is no doubt his hits were devastating and his presence on the ice intimidated his opponents and made them second-guess skating near him.

Another player known for their devastating checks is Darius Kasparaitis. In particular, he was known for his hip checks and wasn’t afraid to go after the best players on opposing teams, getting him a reputation as an agitator.

Denis Potvin was also a feared checker during his time, as he not only hit hard, but hit often. In addition to being a great hitter, Potvin was also great on the offensive side of the puck, and is one of the best overall defensemen of all time.

While all of these heavy hitters have been defenseman so far, Eric Lindros flipped the script. He was a forward, but at 6’4 and 240 lbs, he was an imposing figure on the ice. Lindros was a great scorer, but his huge size and speed made him a ferocious checkers, too.

He played the game with no fear whatsoever, and wasn’t afraid of laying and receiving big hits.


Here are a few frequently asked questions about checking in hockey, as well as their answers.

How can I avoid checks when playing hockey?

While checking is an important part of hockey, learning to avoid checks can help you stay safe and maintain possession of the puck. Avoiding checks is all about being aware of where opponents are, keeping your head up, and keeping your skates moving during play.

Is checking allowed at all levels of ice hockey?

No, checking isn’t a part of every hockey league. It is allowed in the NHL and many other major leagues, but there are plenty of recreational leagues or leagues for younger players that don’t allow hitting at all.

Final Thoughts

Checking in hockey is a very important part of playing good defense. It is crucial for getting offensive players off the puck and giving your team a spark. I hope this guide helped you learn more about checking, the types of checks in hockey, and how to safely deliver checks.

What type of check do you think is the most effective in hockey? Let me know in a comment below.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email: kale@hockeyhow.com

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