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Body Checking (Competitive Contact Categories)

Situation 1

A team who normally plays in the Body Checking category has scheduled a non-league game with a team who is sanctioned in the Body Contact category. Both coaches agree to play the game under the Body Checking category rules. Should the officials allow the game to be played under Body Checking category rules?

No. Rule Reference 604(b).

Coaches do not have the authority to decide what rules they choose to play under on any given day and under no circumstances should a team registered in the Body Contact category be allowed to play another USA Hockey team under the Body Checking category rules.

Unless provided specific information from a USA Hockey Local Supervisor or Registrar, USA Hockey playing rules should be properly enforced in all USA Hockey sanctioned games.

Situation 2

What is the USA Hockey interpretation of body contact versus body checking? Is a penalty required every time body contact is made?

No. Rule References 604(c Note) and Glossary.

No check does not mean no contact and the Body Contact category game can be very physical. The Glossary defines both Body Contact and Body Checking, as well as several other educational materials (including videos). In fact, USA Hockey 

strongly encourages legal body contact to occur in all ages of the Body Contact category as part of the skill progression that teaches legal body checking.

When determining whether a body check has occurred, the official must focus on whether the player is attempting to play the puck and whether there is any overt hip, shoulder or forearm action used to initiate contact and separate the opponent from the puck.

Legal body contact occurs when players are focused on the puck and are simply maintaining legally established body position. This most often occurs when two players are “battling” in front of the goal or along the boards. Legal body contact also commonly occurs when a player has established an angle on the opponent and closes the gap to create an opening that is too small for the puck carrier.

Officials must be well versed in understanding the spirit and intent of this rule so the proper application of the rule is enforced. Officials are expected to review all of the educational materials available on this subject on a regular basis. It is USA Hockey’s intent to create a safe environment for players to be able to develop their skills – including body checking in age appropriate classifications – while being able to physically compete within the rules.

Situation 3

What are the things an official should look for when determining whether a body check has “recklessly endangered” an opponent in a competitive contact category?

The degree of force, the effort to play the puck and the vulnerability of the opponent are all indicators as to whether a major plus game misconduct or match penalty shall be assessed for body checking in a competitive contact category. Rule Reference 604(d and e) and Glossary.

The more severe penalty options must be considered any time a player in a competitive contact category delivers a clear body check using excessive force and has made no effort to legally play the puck. Additional consideration should also be given any time the check is delivered to an opponent considered to be vulnerable or defenseless or the player delivering the check has recklessly endangered the opponent.