Hockey is a very physical sport and at the NHL level, players use different techniques and tactics to separate opponents from the puck. Unlike basketball and soccer, players are encouraged to initiate body contact, within the rules, to effectively defend and prevent the other team from scoring.
“Checking” in hockey can refer to several different styles in which players make contact with an opponent in an attempt to steal the puck. A player will check an opponent by using their stick or their body. One of the most effective types of body checks is a ‘hip check’.
But what exactly is a hip check in hockey?
A hip check is when a player bends their knees and crouches low to the ice while swinging their hips toward an opponent to separate them from the puck. The most effective hip checks occur when the hip makes contact with the opponent’s midsection, pinning the opponent against the boards.
That’s a quick overview of hip checks but throughout the rest of this article, we’ll examine if they’re worth throwing and what other types of checks exist.
Are Hip Checks Legal in Hockey?
Generally speaking, hip checks are legal in hockey when they are performed correctly. However, if the player throwing the hip check makes contact at or below an opponent’s knees, a “clipping” penalty will be assessed.
Clipping penalties are rarely called, and when they are they typically result in two-minute minor penalties, but a referee can assess a major or a game misconduct depending on the outcome of the play.
Additionally, to be a legal play, a hip check must be initiated on a player in possession of the puck, otherwise, a player will be penalized for interference.
Is Throwing a Hip Check Worth it?
When executed properly, hip checks are one of the most effective ways of separating an opponent from the puck. This is because when a hip check is performed, the player throwing the check uses an angling technique to pin the opponent against the boards, stopping their momentum as the puck continues on the ice for another player to retrieve.
However, due to the improved skill level of players, hip checks are becoming increasingly harder to execute. Today’s players are much better at anticipating checks and have improved footwork which enables them to maneuver around hip checks.
When a player misses a hip check and the opponent maneuvers around them, the player attempting to throw the hip check is essentially out of the play due to the failed hip check.
To say a hip check is worth it is entirely dependent upon the player’s ability to execute the check. If executed properly a hip check is worth it, however, if not executed properly, a failed hip check could result in a goal for the opposing team.
How Do You Throw a Hip Check?
To throw an effective hip check in hockey, a player should be in a defensive position, often skating backward and near the boards.
As the opponent nears, the player throwing the hip check should angle the opponent towards the boards until they are about a stick length away; at this point, the defensive player should bend the knees slightly into a crouched position and swing the outside hip into the opponents mid-section.
The key to a successful hip check is making sure that the angling is done well, ensuring that the opponent is unable to avoid contact. Players throwing hip checks must be sure to not make contact below the opponent’s knees or they will likely be assessed a clipping or tripping penalty.
Types of Checking in Hockey
Checking in hockey can be broken into two different categories: body and stick.
Body checking is the initiation of contact with an opponent using the body. In hockey, legal body checking includes physical contact with the shoulder or hip. Generally speaking, if contact is initiated with an opponent by any other body part (i.e. elbow, hand, knee, etc.) a penalty will likely be called.
Stick checking is the use of one’s stick in an attempt to knock the puck out of the opponent’s control. The most common type of stick check is known as a poke check. Generally, any other use of the stick to impede or disrupt an opponent is likely a penalty (tripping, hooking, slashing, etc.)
Is Body Checking Allowed in Minor League Hockey?
Body checking rules vary greatly in minor hockey leagues throughout the world. Under USA Hockey rules, body checking is allowed beginning at 13 years old.
Is Hip Checking Allowed in Women’s Hockey?
Body checking of any kind is prohibited in women’s hockey. However, this increases the importance of angling and body position. Additionally, stick checking and poke checking skills are increasingly important to make up for the lack of body contact.
Are Hip Checks Common in the NHL?
Hip checks are not as common as they once were. This can be attributed to the increasing skill level and footwork in the NHL. Players have become more agile which increases a player’s ability to avoid body contact, specifically hip checks. In today’s NHL, hip checks are considered high-risk, low-reward plays.
Are Hip Checks Dangerous?
Hip checks can be very dangerous if they are not executed correctly. If contact is made at or below the knees of an opponent, it can cause serious injury as the players are prone to flip or somersault, potentially hitting their head on the ice.
What Is Clipping in Hockey?
Clipping is the penalty called when a player makes initial body contact at or below an opponent’s knees. Clipping typically results in a minor penalty, however, it can be deemed a major and/or game misconduct penalty as determined by the referee.