As the third story in this series on checking skills, the emphasis moves from principles and foundation to hockey’s primary motive force, skating. Skating is the foundation of every hockey skill and to skate well is to check well.
A full and proficient skating skill set is critical to complete checking. To take away ice, control ice, the speed of attack, its pace and lastly, and to lessen the available time for the puck carrier, a player must have proficiency in their skating. Good skaters check well because they can effectively “shrink the ice” and apply checking pressure quickly. In the last article in this series, the importance of exceptional balance, an ideal and strong base of support and resilience in collisions or during body contact was conveyed. Similarly, or perhaps in combination with the above-noted antecedents, checkers must develop and demonstrate flawless stride and glide abilities in both forward and backward skating.
Also vital is the ability to move the feet quickly with optimal stride length. This repeated application of force into the ice elevates an average checking player to an outstanding defender. They get to the needed area of the ice quickly. We as coaches often call this “…good feet” and “…edge control” but, it is more a product of the athlete’s well-developed gross motor dexterity and their ability to weight and unweight the feet so that they are on the balls of the feet thereby controlling the body’s centre of mass. When the checker’s feet are aligned optimally and delivering power into the ice, the checking player establishes proximity – net side dominance – and assertive positioning on the ice, shrinking vulnerable areas and limiting attack options.
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