Penguins-Capitals: The Law of Body Checking

Dany LemieuxContributor IMay 9, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 08:  Defenseman Sergei Gonchar #55 of the Pittsburgh Penguins lies on the ice after being injured in a collision with Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on May 8, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Hello there, folks!

Playoff hockey is an exciting time for all hockey, because every game is so intense that bodies are flying all over the place.

Some hits can be devastating, and leave players with some nasty injuries and even concussions.

For example, last night's hit by Alexander Ovechkin on Sergei Gonchar.  Was this a case of Alexander Ovechkin trying to hurt Gonchar?

Before I tell you what I think let's take a look at the "true" law of a body checking:

"Using the body to knock an opponent against the boards or to the ice. This is often referred to as simply checking or hitting, and is only permitted on an opponent with possession of the puck.

"Body checking can be penalized when performed recklessly. Charging, hitting from behind, and boarding are examples of illegal hits, due to their dangerous nature and increased likelihood of causing serious injury.

"In women's hockey, any body checking is a penalty, and is also usually not allowed in amateur leagues and leagues with young children. Some intramural university leagues do not permit body checking, in order to avoid injury and incidents of fighting.

'Leaning' against opponents is an alternative to body checking but, if abused, may be penalized as interference" (source is wikipedia: checking ice hockey)

My gosh!  I don't understand.

I was watching games last night and players were "checking" other players even if they did not have the puck and they were not penalized for it. It is so confusing!

You look back at classic hits by Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros, Bob Boughner on Keith Primeau, Stevens on Paul Kariya, and more of those types of hits—and we see them as great!

But according to this law, those hits are against it. Should they be penalized?  Is that law true, or am I in a nightmare?

Well, folks, it is the 100-percent pure truth!

90 percent of those hits you see in games are not legal and they should be penalized with different penalties such as interference, roughing, elbowing, high-sticking and more!

The first task of a body check is to remove a player from the puck and take possession of it—not to try to hurt or intimidate your opponent.

Injuries happen because of illegal and dangerous checking.

Now, was Ovechkin hit on Gonchar dangerous?  Yes.

Did Gonchar have control of the puck? Yes.

Was Ovechkin trying to hit with his shoulder? Yes.

Did Gonchar try to step aside and avoid the hit from Ovy coming in full speed? Yes.

Therefore because Gonchar's lower body did not move as fast as his upper body, Alex's knee got a face to face with Gonchar's right knee. 

No suspensions, but like an accidental high-sticking call that draws blood, it should have been a five minute major penalty for kneeing. 

Yes, even if it was accidental.

A five-minute major penalty for kneeing is also accompanied by a game misconduct.

Now that you know all the rules of the "law" of body checking in hockey, and you see a goal like the Capitals' third goal in Game Four, where a player committed two obvious penalties for interference, or you see a star player laying on the ice unconscious because of a devastating hit when he did not have the puck, just ask yourself this:

Was this a legal hit?