charging rule often causes confusion because it states that a penalty will
be assessed for taking more than two strides when you hit someone. It must
be pointed out that the two stride rule only applies to the final strides
you take before hitting a player. A person may take 50 hard strides to get
to a player and then coast into him. This will not usually result in a
charging penalty simply because the player did not try to pick up speed at
the end of the trip.
the last two or three meters before you hit someone after taking a healthy
charge at them are spent gliding into this person, then it is difficult to
call a charging penalty because the feet are no longer moving.
This is a key point, so let me repeat it – the feet are no longer
does not mean that no penalty will be called. The checking player may get
his fists up, use his elbow, or slam the opponent into the boards with
excessive force, deserving of a boarding call.
assessing a possible charging situation, the referee examines closely what
happens during the last few meters before contact. Were the feet moving in
an attempt to gain speed? Did the feet come off the ice? Was there an
overly aggressive attempt to generate excessive force upon impact?
Remember, it is not really how far the player had to travel before the
hit. It is what happened immediately prior to contact that determines a
charging rule is an attempt to minimize the number of injuries that are
received from people running at other players with the sole intent of to
creating pain. Body checking was not introduced into hockey for the big,
thunderous hits that everyone loves to see.
The main goal of body checking is to separate the player from the
puck and allow a teammate to pick up the loose puck.
experienced coaches still teach their players to old theory about body
checking: “First man takes the body; second man takes the puck”.
This is what checking was designed to do. It was not designed to
send someone through the boards, even though it is exciting from the
fan’s point of view when a big hit occurs. However, it’s not too
pleasant for the person being hit.
next time you see a big hitter like Scott Stevens lining up a player who
is cutting across the ice, watch how he hits this person.
Sure he skates towards the player but nearly 99% of the time during
the last metre before he hits an opponent he is gliding into him and then
at the last moment he will give an extra push off his back leg to make
sure that he isn’t the one sent flying.
Scott Stevens is one of the best big hitters in NHL history, but he
is not a dirty hitter. He
uses his shoulder and he hits within the rules of hockey, making sure to
position himself properly at the moment of impact.
a fan of hockey, put yourself in the skates of the referee who is skating
down the ice and sees a hit developing. When you are down on ice level you
get a certain feeling for when there is about to be a big hit just by how
a team may be breaking out of their own end or of the play a forward is
trying to make on a defenseman, such as cutting across the ice.
As the referee you are concentrating on this anticipated big hit
and you only have a split second to determine whether or not there was a
penalty in the hit. Here is what you are trying to watch for as the hit
1) The distance between the checking player and the player with the
rule of thumb is that the further the distance between the two players,
the greater the chance for a charging penalty to occur.
Also, you must see if the players are skating towards each other or
if they are going in the same direction.
You are more likely to see a good, clean hit when both players are
going in the same direction. They may be quite a distance apart at the
beginning, but if they are going in the same direction, into the boards
for example, there may be quite a crushing blow and bodies falling all
over the place, but there may not be a “charge”.
2) Does the checking player look like he wants to just separate the
player from the puck, or does it look like he wants to send him through
watching a game from ice level is much different from watching it from the
stands. On the ice a referee gets to watch attitudes develop over the
course of a game. Near the end of a game it often becomes
“pay-back-time”. A checking player may see his last opportunity to get
back at an opponent who has been bugging him all game. A referee will be
aware of this and will be watching to see if the checker goes a bit too
far with the hit. Nevertheless, a referee can only call a penalty “after
the fact”. Fans sometimes get upset with a referee after a player lays a
charge on an opponent. This is when you will hear fans yell at the referee
that he has “lost control of the game” or accuse the referee of
allowing the player to hurt another. A referee may see that a big charge
is coming. He may even anticipate it. However, in the game today he can
only call the penalty after it happens. We have heard stories from
“old-timers” who tell tales from when colourful referees donned the
stripes. A referee in the early days could look at a player and give him a
misconduct for “thinking bad thoughts”, but we all know how the
administration would frown on such a call today.
3) When the actual hit occurs, did the checking player jump?
soon as a player’s skates leave the ice when he is throwing a check,
this is classified as charging under the rules.
However, the tough part for the referee is to determine whether or
not the player throwing the check left the ice before he hit the player or
after he hit the player.
other words, you must understand that often after two players collide, one
of them will have their feet leave the ice surface, and from a distance it
may look as if the person jumped. This is perfectly legal as long as the
player throwing the check did not jump before he made contact with the
puck carrier. The person throwing the check may have had his feet leave
the ice as a result of the momentum of his forward motion hitting and
bouncing upwards after making contact with the opponent, especially if the
opponent ducks a bit or is smaller. A referee must watch the skates and
make a split decision.
4) Were there any other penalties on the hit?
time two players come together in minor hockey, there is a potential for a
penalty to occur. Not only
does the referee have to look at the checking player charging at the puck
carrier, he must also take into consideration other matters such as:
i) Were the checking player’s hands up in the face
of the puck carrier?
ii) Did the elbow of the checking player come up and
hit the head?
iii) Did the checking player go directly for the head
of the puck carrier?
iv) If the checking player was going to miss the hit,
did he intentionally try and use his knee or arm to hit the player or trip
As a parent, coach, player, or just simply a
hockey fan, try and remember that the referee does not always have the
best view to see whether or not the checking player threw an elbow, fist,
knee or if he charged at the player.
It is always easier to see penalties from the stands, but you also
don’t know what the referee is sensing on the ice.
For instance, maybe the referee just let the puck carrier get away
with a slash on the checking player and now all the parents see is the
checking player charging at the puck carrier and want a penalty called.
Keep in mind that referees know what they have allowed players to
get away with throughout a game, and they know which players have gotten
away with borderline infractions. So
if a player committing these infractions gets paid back with a big check
or charge, then the referee may not call the penalty if there is no injury
on the play. The fans in the stands never remember what their players have
gotten away with during earlier parts of the game. They only remember what
has happened now.
We all know that hockey administrators and
referees-in-chief will tell you that referees are always told to call by
the book. However, we also know that the senior referees “don’t”
call by the book. They have developed an instinct for managing the game
and know how to create an exciting, safe hockey game within the spirit of
the rules rather than within the letter of the law.
Nevertheless, referees are also aware of the
damage that can be done by charging and are very cognizant of this fact.
The biggest problem is that if you ask any mother or father for their
opinion, you will almost always hear them state that when their child gets
hit, it is a charge. But when it is their son doing the hitting, it is
clean. Funny game, isn’t it?