Checking is a critical skill that, when performed properly, can create quality scoring opportunities or help a team regain control of the puck. Just like skating, puck control, passing and shooting, there are key progressions to the skill of checking that, when taught effectively, can enhance the love of the game.
A common misconception is that the skill of checking begins at a certain age or age division. In fact, checking is a four-step progression that begins the first time a young player steps on the ice. Body-checking is the fourth and final step of the progression.
The transition from non-contact to contact hockey can be very uncomfortable for young players, but if coaches are able to effectively put the building blocks in place, it means a smoother transition.
While positioning, angling, stick-checking and body contact is taught in the younger age divisions, full body-checking is not permitted until U15 at most intermediate and competitive levels. Some community (house) leagues will offer a non-body-checking option for all age divisions, including U15 and U18.