3 Hockey Practice Drills to Teach the Purpose & Principles of Checking

3 Hockey Practice Drills to Teach the Purpose & Principles of Checking
It takes many seasons of play for youth players to grasp the how-to, the what-to and the when-to. But it's never too early to begin teaching the basics.
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In the next series of articles, I will dissect, examine and describe the purpose and principles of checking in ice hockey so that it can be better understood and taught. The result will be extremely effective execution and safe performance. The skill sets and sub-sets of checking, along with standard conventions in defensive play will be clarified in this series. And some modern twists will also be shared with you the reader. Along with these descriptions, a string of cues and teachables will be offered that add value to your practices.

Let’s begin with a big-rink view.

As Canadian hockey players, we have a reputation for being good at checking. Qualities like tenacity, persistence and assertiveness are part and parcel of our style of game. Our tactical game is built on this strength, and in North America, coaches continue to highlight the defensive style of play as a priority. Low scoring, containment first and a structured and strict positional emphasis without the puck are what most coaches like.

Oddly, our methods in teaching team strategy have historically been less innovative when compared to our European counterparts. We have tended to borrow defensive innovations from other hockey nations and conceivably have perfected their usefulness. For example, from across the pond, we uncover the origins of the neutral zone trap, offensive zone locks, and defensive zone coverages like 1-3-1, 1-1-3, swarms etc.

The Purpose of Checking

But, before we dig into defensive team tactics deeply, let’s “peel off some layers” and look at the purpose of checking. By looking at the specific definition of the skill we understand that our player’s physical actions and on-ice decisions while checking begin and end in alignment with the definition and purpose of the skill. And we also discover that to be truly efficient and effective in checking our players must know why they check and why they need to get good at the fundamentals involved in this skill.

It takes many seasons of play for youth players to grasp the how-to, the what-to and the when-to. But it's never too early to begin teaching the basics . . .

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Malcolm Sutherland

Malcolm Sutherland is a coach, physical educator, sport pedagogist, and SME in sports development, sports safety and injury prevention. As an athlete and player safety expert Malcolm has developed prevention tools and a program to control serious injury in sport.

He is a Chartered Professional Coach holding designation with Coaches of Canada. In hockey specifically, Malcolm is now active as a sought after development coach working internationally and nationally. Malcolm has coached at every level from professional minor leagues, varsity as well as junior and AAA levels of minor hockey.

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