Checking In Hockey
Hockey is a game notorious for its high level of contact between players, like body checking. Checking is considered legal in most professional hockey leagues, but the restrictions for such vary when it comes to lower levels of hockey. This leads many to wonder, is there checking in bantam hockey?
Checking is allowed in bantam hockey. They are allowed to check their opponents as long as it falls within the legal guidelines set by a national hockey league such as the USA Hockey or Hockey Canada organizations.
Although checking is currently accepted at the bantam level, it is a relatively aggressive move. For this reason, there are strict guidelines set in place. So, what exactly is body checking, and why is it allowed in bantam hockey? Read on below as the truth is revealed!
As with many competitively physical sports like football and such, the youth division of hockey is classified by age group. Bantam hockey is the youth classification for players ages 13 to 15. Because checking does involve a certain level of physical contact between players, it’s easy to assume that there might be no checking in bantam hockey.
However, there is checking in bantam hockey. Although some of the restrictions with checking vary amongst some hockey leagues, the USA Hockey organization acts as the official body concerning all matters related to the rules of hockey in the US.
According to USA Hockey, body checking is not allowed in youth classifications lower than the bantam level.
“Body checking is prohibited in the 12 & under youth age classification and below all Girls’/Women’s age classifications.”
Source: USA Hockey Rulebook (Sect. 6)
Players at the bantam level, and all levels, to be exact, are required to adhere to the guidelines set forth by USA Hockey and similar presiding leagues and organizations. While checking is allowed in bantam hockey, there are classified rules and regulations that all players are expected to follow.
Many sports fanatics are no stranger when it comes to hockey. It’s a sport known for its rowdy fans, the players, and how could anyone forget the all-mighty hockey puck. In addition to its fans, hockey players are known to get aggressive in their manner of playing.
From blocking passing attempts from their opponents or trying to gain control of the puck, there is no limit to the amount of physical contact in hockey. If you’ve ever watched a hockey game in full action, you might notice a typical move by players in which they shove their opponent. This is known as body checking,
“… when a player makes a deliberate physical contact with the opponent using overt hip, shoulder, arm, or torso action.”
Source: USA Hockey Rulebook (Sect. 6)
Checking in hockey is not to be confused with actual physical contact—and yes, these are two different things. They will both be explained shortly, but in the meantime, let’s explore the purpose of checking.
The purpose of checking in hockey is to gain control of the puck. It is a defensive move often used to prevent an opponent from gaining or keeping control of the puck. Checking can also be used to regain control of the puck if it is already in the opponent’s possession. As long as the manner of checking is not overtly aggressive, it is considered legal.
As mentioned before, hockey is a highly physical sport. Regardless of the youth classification, the level of physical contact between players remains the same. With that being said, physical contact is the nature of the game in many aspects. However, there are specific guidelines that prohibit certain forms of contact.
For starters, there’s a fine line between body contact and checking. Someone less familiar with the rules involved in hockey might be puzzled at first, but rest assured, there is a genuine intention behind separating the two.
Naturally, players are bound to be in physical contact with each other, especially if they are in the vicinity of the puck. This would be considered regular physical contact because it is not intentional. On the other hand, body checking is deemed to be deliberate and therefore differs from regular physical contact.
“Legal body contact occurs between skaters who are in the vicinity of the puck. A bodycheck is intentional on an opponent who has control of the puck, with the focus on gaining possession.”
Source: Ontario Minor Hockey Association
Body checking occurs when a player intentionally forces physical contact in an attempt to gain control of the puck. Though the two slightly differ, there are strict rules when it comes to executing a body check. For example, a body check cannot be performed if the player has no intention of gaining control of the puck.
With any type of play that involves physical contact with an opponent, there has to be regulations involved. This is to reduce the risk of players getting seriously injured and to identify what is safe and acceptable.
With body checking, the risk of getting injured is bound to be present and highly probable. For this reason, there are checks that are considered legal and illegal. This prevents players from hurting one another with and without intention.
Checks that are considered legal include:
- Hip check. The player may check the opponent as long as the check is directed towards the trunk of the body.
- Shoulder check. This type of check is legal as long as it is directed towards the trunk of the opponent.
Checks that are considered illegal include:
- Checks that occur during bodily contact: Players are prohibited from delivering a body check to an opponent while in contact with that person. This includes checking an opponent while in the vicinity, but not in possession of the puck.
- Using a check to physically remove an opponent from the puck: While the purpose of a check is to challenge the opponent, who has control over the puck, it is illegal to physically force the opponent from the puck. This includes using “overt hip, shoulder or arm contact” with that person.
- Checking an opponent without playing the puck. Checking an opponent and/or making physical contact with the opponent without the intention of actually playing the puck is considered illegal.
- Boarding. Players are prohibited from checking a defenceless player into the boards. This includes aggressively checking a player into the boards in a reckless manner as well as tripping a player with no intent to play the puck.
- Charging. This refers to when a player takes 2 to 3 strides or more in an attempt to check another player. Running, jumping, and accelerating while attempting a check another player while trying to cause harm is considered illegal.
- Any form of head contact. Having contact with the head, neck, or face in general and with a stick is strictly prohibited. Checking that results in direct contact with any of the body parts listed above is illegal.
Regardless of the age group, all players are expected to adhere to these guidelines set by USA Hockey. For more information on these rules and regulations, visit here.
There has been much controversy behind the decision to allow checking in bantam hockey in the past, and that has resurfaced recently. Much of the controversy surrounds the health risks and the risk of injury associated with body checking. Because most youth players at this level are going through puberty, the risk of injury is much higher.
During puberty time, the body is much more sensitive to injury. Likewise, the range of physical maturity also increases these risks. Since puberty hits at different times for different kids, the weight, height, and power range of the children in an age-restricted bantam league could still vary wildly. This can cause severe and unsafe imbalances of power and size. A huge kid checking a small kid is dangerous, even if they are technically both in the same age range.
“According to the AAP, injury rates at the bantam level are particularly high, due to the age group’s broad range of physical maturity and body size.”
Source: CBC News
Though the age range for bantam hockey is between 13 and 15, several medical experts, as well as parents, have called for action in raising the minimum age for body checking to 15. Doing so would require that players 15 and under be prohibited from checking. This would mean that only junior gold and above are allowed to body check.
Many scientists, doctors, and similar medical professionals are in favour of raising the minimum requirement for checking to 15. However, there are a number of those who believe checking in youth hockey is an advantage rather than a potential risk to players’ health.
Body checking in hockey is no stranger when it comes to controversy. Though it has been a point of concern for years, the controversy spread even further following the first ban on checking at the peewee level of hockey. The peewee level of hockey refers to youth players ages 11 to 13.
Checking at the peewee level was banned by two of the top leading hockey organizations, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada. This ban was enforced in order to protect younger players from getting seriously injured.
At the time of the ban, many were satisfied with the decision; however, there is now the new concern for checking at the bantam level. Many believe that players at the bantam level are just as exposed to the risk of getting injured as peewee hockey players are. Their age group also has a disproportionate body size.
The debate concerning checking in professional and minor league hockey is one of major significance. The relationship between the number of player concussions as a result of checking has been explored over the years. Scientific evidence has proven that increasing the required age for checking can decrease the percentage of injuries.
Much of the controversy concerning the health risks associated with body checking surrounds the fact that body checking should not be allowed in youth classifications 14U and under. This would include:
- Bantam Youth 14U, ages 13 to 15
- Peewee Youth 12U, ages 11 to 13
- Squirt Youth 10U, ages 9 to 11
- Mite Youth 8U, ages 7 to 9
- Mini-mite Youth 6U, ages 5 to 6
Recently, the Mayo Clinic, one of the leading medical research hospitals in the USA, took a stance on the controversy surrounding the risks associated with body checking in youth hockey. According to an article published by Fox 9, the Mayo Clinic has recommended that bantam level players be banned from checking.
This recommendation stems from efforts to help reduce the risk of injuries amongst youth hockey plays. As mentioned before, one of the main concerns with checking at the bantam level is the disparities that exist between player body sizes. Given that some kids reach puberty faster than others and vice versa, this is a legitimate concern.
In addition to the disparities in size for bantam level players, the particular injuries associated with checking are also of concern. Some health and injury risks associated with checking in bantam hockey include:
- Major and minor spinal cord injuries
- Bone fractures and breaks
These particular injuries could affect players from their youth and well into their adulthood. Likewise, they could also pose a risk to their growth and development.
The other side of the controversy surrounding checking in bantam hockey is most concerned with lowering the minimum age for checking in hockey. The argument from those in favour of this is that checking at a younger age could better prepare youth players for the higher levels of hockey.
This argument is only a matter of opinion; however, there are a number of former hockey players who feel that checking should be seen in a positive light. By that, they mean that checking is an opportunity for youth players to grow into fully prepared adult players.
About three years ago, CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) published an article highlighting campaigns that were in favour of banning checking in bantam hockey. While the title of the article says it all, it wasted no time in sharing the perspective of one hockey parent who opposes the ban.
Former hockey player and now hockey parent to two sons, Michael Matsubuchi was the main subject in this unique opposition. According to the article, Matsubuchi believes that getting hit is simply part of the game and stressed the importance of players keeping their heads up should they get hit.
The point made by Matsubuchi is relative to some extent, given the traditional mantra of persevering that is often emphasized in playing a sport. However, it is essential to note that it represents the less popular opinion behind the argument of raising the minimum age for checking in bantam hockey.
To read more about this story, click here.
As of now, there is checking in bantam hockey, but who’s to say that won’t change in the next few years? Though there are risks associated with checking at all levels, understanding what is considered legal and illegal can help in reducing this risk.
Likewise, a more vibrant input from the medical community could possibly have an effect on whether or not the call to raise the age of checking is answered. Overall, all sports have risks associated with them and even in the absence of checking, playing bantam hockey has its share of risks.
This, however, should not deter anyone from playing. Hockey is a sport worth playing by all ages. The probability of gaining satisfaction from a sport full of action like hockey is high, especially for youth players. Whether you’re the parent of a player or a passionate bantam coach, it can be a great experience!
If your child plans on playing at the bantam level, consider double-checking with the league they are playing under for specific rules and regulations on body checking. Some leagues restrict players from checking altogether. Should you have any concerns, be sure to reach out to the head of the league.
To learn more about the associated risks of injuries in checking, check out the research findings published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine at the link below:
For more information on the official USA Hockey rules and regulations for checking in hockey, visit the links below:
To learn more about the pros and cons of checking in youth hockey, visit below:
For more information on the health risks associated with checking in bantam hockey as well as opinions from medical experts, visit the links below: