As one of the most physically demanding team sports, hockey players understand that full commitment is required to succeed in a game. Particularly when it comes to defense, knowing how and where to position oneself on the ice can be the difference between winning or losing. One valuable defensive strategy that all players should have in their arsenal is backchecking.
Backchecking refers to a player’s ability to quickly move back towards their own end and prevent an opponent from scoring, as they move into the offensive zone with possession of the puck. It involves hustling back to take up a defensive position through skating hard, taking good angles, being disciplined, and using anticipation skills. Backchecking is key for preventing opponents from getting a clear shot on net or executing passes successfully.
In this post, we will dive deeper into the nuances of what backchecking in hockey means, its importance to both individual defenders and the entire team, and some ways coaches teach players how to use this effective strategy. We’ll also discuss some common mistakes to avoid and tips on how to improve your own backchecking abilities.
Understanding the Basics of Backchecking
What is Backchecking?
In hockey, backchecking is a defensive technique where forwards or defensemen move towards their team’s own end to disrupt the opposition’s attack and regain possession of the puck. The purpose of backchecking is to prevent an opponent from scoring by cutting off passing lanes, taking away shooting opportunities, and pressuring the opposing player with the puck.
“The key to success in hockey is playing both ends of the ice.” -Mark Messier
The Role of Backchecking in Hockey
Backchecking is an essential aspect of the game of hockey. It requires players to have excellent skating skills, agility, and good body position so that they can stay between the opposing player and their net effectively. If done correctly, backchecking stops the opposition from creating high-quality chances and forces them to make mistakes which can lead to turnovers; however, if done poorly, it leaves gaps that opponents can exploit to score goals.
“We wanted to reinforce the fact that defense wins championships and busts slumps.” -Mike Babcock
A well-executed backcheck not only prevents goals but also creates transition opportunities for the attacking team. By regaining possession of the puck through effective backchecking, teams can immediately turn up ice and create odd-man rushes against the slower defenders who were caught out of position in the offensive zone.
Benefits of Proper Backchecking Techniques
Proper backchecking techniques bring several benefits to individual players and teams:
- Better Team Defense: Effective backchecking requires all five players on the ice to work together and communicate to cover passing lanes and block shots while maintaining good positioning. This improves the overall defense of the team.
- Creating Offense: Effective backchecking can lead to counterattacks, odd-man rushes and breakaway opportunities due to turnovers forced through pressure in the defensive zone.
- Improves individual skills: Backchecking requires specific hockey skills such as quick decision-making, good skating technique, stick positioning, and body control. Practicing these skills helps players improve their game overall.
- Reinforces Teamwork: Successful backchecking is a result of teamwork and communication. This will also help a team build trust with each other which ultimately translates into better on-ice success.
To conclude, backchecking is an essential part of the game of hockey. It plays a critical role in preventing goals, creating transition opportunities and strengthening the teamwork within squads. Coaches must emphasize this aspect of the game during training sessions and players should practice consistently to become effective backcheckers. By doing so, not only can individual players elevate their game but entire teams can witness significant improvements in both offensive and defensive production.
How Backchecking Differs from Forechecking
Backchecking vs. Forechecking: An Overview
What is backchecking in hockey? It refers to the technique used by a team’s forwards and defensemen to defend their own zone when they do not have possession of the puck. This involves skating hard and quickly through the neutral zone and into their own end, attempting to intercept the other team’s attack before it can become dangerous.
In contrast, forechecking is the strategy employed by a team’s forwards to try to regain possession of the puck from the opposing team within their offensive zone. The aim here is to put pressure on the opponent and force them into mistakes that can be capitalized on.
While both strategies are important to a team’s success, there are key differences between the two approaches.
Key Differences in Strategy and Execution
The main difference between backchecking and forechecking is where each occurs on the ice. Backchecking happens in a team’s own defensive zone while forechecking takes place in the offensive zone. Additionally, the roles and responsibilities of players differ as well.
When backchecking, it is typically the responsibility of all five players – three forwards and two defensemen – to defend against the opposition’s rush and maintain proper positioning. Players must communicate effectively with one another to ensure that coverage remains tight and gaps between defenders aren’t too large. Often times, an attacking player will make himself available for a pass behind a defenseman’s stick or outstretched skate blade, so it’s crucial for defensemen to keep that in mind while maintaining good body position. Different systems have different nuances, but this doesn’t change across different styles of play.
Forechecking requires a different set of skills. Typically, only the three forwards apply pressure to the opposition’s defensemen and work aggressively, usually in specific strategies like a 2-1 -2 or 1-2-2. Defensemen may pinch up in these circumstances. The idea is to cause turnovers, create pressure, and complete passes back to your own team.
Another major difference between the two strategies is that forechecking requires a more physical style of play, as players are typically trying to separate their opponents from the puck by using body checks or sticks instead of simply intercepting an incoming pass. Backchecking, on the other hand, focuses on positioning and keeping passing lanes closed down.
When to Use Backchecking vs. Forechecking
Knowing when to use each technique can be crucial for success in hockey games. As mentioned earlier, backchecking is primarily used when a team does not have possession of the puck and is attempting to prevent the opposing team from scoring. Forechecking is employed when trying to regain possession of the puck within the offensive zone.
A coach must make decisions regarding strategy during games based on situational factors including how much time left in the period, score status, line personnel and opponent skill set. It’s important to note that while aggressive forechecking will provide opportunities for turnovers and breakaways, it also opens one’s own defence against quick attacking teams who know how to exploit gaps.
How to Effectively Combine Both Techniques
The key to effective backchecking and forechecking lies in understanding how both strategies complement one another. For example, strong backchecking allows forwards to concentrate solely on applying pressure and forechecking without having to worry too much about getting caught out of position defensively.
By successfully regaining possession through forechecking, defensive players can then transition quickly into offensive attacks, with support from forwards who remained high in the neutral zone. This requires good communication and team effort since, in the defensive zone, any number of players may need to cover for a teammate who is caught out of position.
“Backchecking is easier than forechecking. With backchecking you just go straight backward; with forechecking you have to know where your teammates are, especially in case the defenseman makes an outlet pass.” -Wayne Gretzky
In essence, effective hockey teams interweave their backchecking and forechecking strategies seamlessly throughout games. The best teams are able to read where play might be going next while aggressively pressing when they sense that this will help turn the tables on opponents.
With these techniques, hockey manages to stay one of the most exciting sports in North America. It’s a discipline in which teamwork, athleticism, anticipation, strategy, speed, brutality and grace all come together into what sometimes appears a chaotic dance – albeit a deadly serious one.
The Importance of Backchecking in Today’s Fast-Paced Game
Backchecking is a crucial component of hockey and has become more important than ever in today’s fast-paced game. It refers to the act of skating back into your own defensive zone to defend against an opposing player who has possession of the puck. Successful backchecking can prevent scoring opportunities for the opposing team, disrupt their offensive flow, and ultimately lead to goals for your own team.
The Speed of Modern Hockey and Its Impact on Defense
With advancements in training techniques, equipment, and rules changes, modern hockey is faster than it has ever been before. This speed means players need to be quicker and more agile than ever before in order to stay competitive. For defensemen, this means they need to focus on developing strong skating skills as well as having excellent situational awareness in order to succeed.
“Playing defense isn’t just about defending anymore, especially with so many speedy forwards out there now,” says former NHL defenseman Brian Leetch. “It requires playing defense with your feet, not just sticks or positioning.”
This increased emphasis on speed also puts pressure on forwards to be intelligent and relentless when it comes to defending. A forward who neglects to backcheck effectively can put their entire team at risk. In addition to disrupting the opposition’s attack, strong backchecking can create turnovers, opening up opportunistic offensive chances for your own team.
Why Backchecking is More Important Than Ever
In recent years, there have been several trends that make backchecking even more essential to success in hockey. One such trend is the rise of highly skilled, offensively-minded defensemen who are often allowed to pinch and join the rush in order to generate offense for their team.
This gambit certainly pays dividends when executed correctly, but it also means that a team’s defensive structure must be more agile and better coordinated than ever before to avoid leaving itself vulnerable. When one of these offensive-minded defenders pinches down low or jumps into the play in the neutral zone, forwards must adjust their positioning accordingly and cover for them defensively – which is often key to preventing a counter-attack.
Another contributing factor to the increased importance of backchecking is the proliferation of advanced stats like Corsi and Fenwick, which measure teams’ shot attempts at even strength. As analytics have become more crucial to understanding hockey success, it has become clear that limiting opponents’ high-danger scoring opportunities is one of the strongest predictors of winning games.
Examples of Successful Backchecking in Recent NHL Seasons
The most successful teams are those who have learned to appreciate the value of strong backchecking. One recent example comes from the Washington Capitals, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018 on the strength of an incredibly aggressive forecheck and tenacious effort by all skaters to get back on defense when necessary.
“It’s something we’ve worked on all year. We didn’t always execute it as well as we needed to throughout the season,” says Capitals forward Tom Wilson. “But once playoffs started, our game really tightened up. That was kind of an X-factor for us—that relentless pressure from the third and fourth lines.”
Another team that has built its success largely on excellent backchecking is the New York Islanders. Led by head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders finished 2nd in goals against in the Eastern Conference during the 2020-21 season, despite being perceived as lacking star power compared to many other NHL squads.
While backchecking may not be as flashy as goal-scoring or making highlight-reel saves, it remains an essential part of any winning team’s game plan. Teams that can limit opponents’ high-danger scoring opportunities are more likely to win games, and backchecking is one of the most effective ways to accomplish this.
Developing Backchecking Skills to Improve Your Overall Game
Breaking Down the Fundamentals of Backchecking
Backchecking is a crucial defensive skill in hockey that involves quickly transitioning from offense to defense by retrieving the puck and preventing your opponent from scoring. It requires players to have exceptional skating, stick-handling, and positioning skills.
The key to effective backchecking is to stay close to your opponent while maintaining good gap control. Gap control refers to the distance between you and your opponent, which should be enough to pressure them without allowing them too much space to make a play.
Proper body positioning is also essential in backchecking. Players must maintain a low center of gravity, keep their head up, and use their body to shield the puck away from the opponent.
“Defensive awareness means having a keen sense of where everyone is on the ice, where the danger is coming from, and how to anticipate trouble before it even starts.” -Scott Stevens
Drills and Exercises for Improving Backchecking Techniques
One way to improve your backchecking skills is through consistent practice. Here are some drills and exercises that can help:
- Positioning Drills: Set up cones or obstacles on the ice and practice moving around them while maintaining proper body positioning and gap control.
- Forecheck to Backcheck Drill: Have a forward take a shot on goal, then immediately transition to defense and start backchecking.
- 1-on-1 Battle Drills: Practice engaging in battles along the boards and working on techniques such as angling, stick lifts, and poke-checks.
- Video Analysis: Watch game footage and closely analyze your positioning, gap control, and body language during backchecking situations.
- Conditioning Drills: Endurance and speed are crucial in effective backchecking. Incorporate exercises such as sprints, suicides, and interval training to improve your stamina.
Remember, becoming an effective backchecker requires a combination of skills, strategy, and practice. By consistently working on these fundamentals, you can improve your overall game and become a valuable asset to the team.
Effective Backchecking Techniques to Shut Down Your Opponent’s Offense
Backchecking is a critical defensive skill that helps a team neutralize the opponent’s offensive pressure. It involves vigorously pursuing the opposing players who are in possession of the puck and preventing them from creating scoring opportunities. Effective backchecking requires a combination of positioning, stick work, body contact, communication, coordination, anticipation, and reaction. In this article, we will discuss these techniques in detail.
Positioning and Angling: The Keys to Effective Backchecking
The first step to successful backchecking is proper positioning on the ice. Ideally, the defending player should be between the attacking player and the goal at all times. This means that the defender must cut off the path to the net and force the opponent to make plays along the boards or into less dangerous areas of the ice.
To achieve this position, the defender needs to angle their body towards the attacker while maintaining enough speed to keep up with them. By angling correctly, the defender can steer the attacker away from the center of the ice and limit their options. A good rule of thumb for an effective angle is to match the attacker’s shoulder with your hip, forcing them towards the boards where they have limited space to operate.
Stick Work and Body Contact for Disrupting the Attack
A crucial aspect of successful backchecking is using the stick to disrupt the opposition’s attack. Stick checking is used to poke the puck away from the attacker or lift their stick when they attempt to pass or shoot. Timing and accuracy are essential in executing effective stick checks without drawing penalties. Skilled defenders use deception in their approach by faking a poke check then pulling it back to disturb the attacker’s timing before making contact.
In addition to stick work, physical play and body contact are also important in backchecking. Ideally, a defender should aim to separate the attacker from the puck using their body without committing a penalty. Effective use of hitting, especially on the forecheck, can help disrupt an opponent’s momentum and create turnovers.
Communication and Coordination with Your Defensive Partners
Effective communication between defenders is crucial in successful backchecking as it allows for quick decision-making and coordinated defensive effort. If one player chases the puck carrier while leaving their man unattended, it creates gaps for the opposition to exploit. A safer approach involves assigning each attacker to a specific defender and calling out switches when necessary. Strategic communicating will shift the defense swiftly and see which line stops your opponent better when they have the puck.
Coordination between defenders extends beyond just verbal communication; proper positioning and support angles create backup options if something goes off plan defensively. Positioning effectively means there is someone to contest any attackers that the primary defender does not dispossess immediately so they won’t have free rein towards the goalpost area where they would easily shoot or pass effectively.
Anticipating and Reacting to Offensive Movements and Plays
Reading the game well is essential in performing effective backchecking. Defenders must anticipate potential scoring opportunities based on the movements and set plays of the opposition. Recognizing these signs early will allow defenders to adjust their positioning accordingly and limit the creation of quality chances near the net. There are almost endless possibilities for offensive strategies teams might use, but understanding the common standard operating procedures gives you a predictable basis on how you can respond properly against them.
When skilled attackers get possession of the puck, defencemen need to avoid making rash decisions impulsively. Instead, they must be patient and read the situation carefully before acting. Once the course of action is evident, It’s necessary to take quick and decisive action towards limiting the attackers’ chances of getting an attempt on goal.
Summing up, backchecking is a critical part of any successful hockey team’s defensive game. The technique involves proper positioning, skilled use of stick checking plus body contact techniques, coordination with your fellow defenders through both words and play strategy assignment-wise, lastly anticipating movement trends among opposition players for quicker responses during games. When all of these elements are put together by a defenseman, they form a rock-solid defense that can shut down even the most potent offensive teams in the league.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does backchecking mean in hockey?
Backchecking is a defensive strategy in hockey where forwards skate back into their own zone to disrupt the opposing team’s rush and prevent a scoring opportunity. It involves using speed and positioning to cut off passing lanes and apply pressure to the puck carrier. Backchecking is a crucial aspect of team defense and is often used in conjunction with other defensive strategies like zone coverage, man-to-man marking, and the neutral zone trap.
Why is backchecking important in hockey?
Backchecking is important in hockey because it helps prevent goals against and gives the defending team a chance to regain possession of the puck. It requires discipline, awareness, and effort from all players on the ice, not just the defensemen. By backchecking effectively, a team can limit their opponent’s offensive opportunities and create turnovers that can lead to counterattacks. Good backchecking also shows a commitment to team defense and can inspire confidence and momentum throughout the game.
What are the techniques used in backchecking?
There are several techniques used in backchecking, including angling, stick checking, body positioning, and gap control. Angling involves positioning oneself to force the opponent towards the boards or into a less dangerous area of the ice. Stick checking involves using the stick to disrupt the puck carrier’s control or passing options. Body positioning involves using body contact to impede the opponent’s progress and create turnovers. Gap control involves maintaining a proper distance from the opponent to limit their time and space and force them to make quick decisions.
How does backchecking differ from forechecking?
Backchecking and forechecking are both defensive strategies in hockey, but they differ in their timing and location on the ice. Backchecking occurs when the defending team is already in their own zone and the opponent has possession of the puck. Forechecking occurs when the defending team is in the offensive zone and pressuring the opponent to regain possession. Backchecking is more reactive and defensive, while forechecking is more proactive and offensive. Both strategies require speed, positioning, and communication to be effective.
What are some common mistakes made while backchecking?
Some common mistakes made while backchecking include overcommitting to the puck carrier and leaving passing lanes open, not communicating with teammates to ensure proper coverage, and not maintaining proper gap control or body positioning. Another mistake is not transitioning quickly enough from offense to defense, which can lead to odd-man rushes and scoring opportunities for the opponent. Good backchecking requires discipline, awareness, and effort, and mistakes can be costly in a fast-paced and tightly contested game.
How can a team improve their backchecking skills?
A team can improve their backchecking skills by focusing on proper technique, communication, and teamwork. Players should practice angling, stick checking, body positioning, and gap control in game-like situations to improve their defensive instincts and reactions. Communication is key to ensure proper coverage and limit confusion or breakdowns. Teams should also emphasize the importance of transitioning quickly from offense to defense and maintaining a commitment to team defense throughout the game. Coaches can provide feedback and instruction to help players improve their skills and address any weaknesses or mistakes.