What’S A Forecheck In Hockey? [Facts!]

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You might be familiar with the term ‘forecheck.’ If you’re reading this, you might be wondering what it means in hockey. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and discuss exactly what a forecheck is and how it’s used in the sport.

Forechecking 101

The name ‘forecheck’ might mean that you know what it is and how it works. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The general idea behind a forecheck is to aggressively seek out the opponent’s puck carriers and disrupt their plans before they have a chance to advance the puck to the scoring area.

There are three ways to stop the puck in its tracks: intercept it, block it, or knock it loose. When executed properly, a forecheck helps prevent the opposing team from successfully completing those tasks. A successful forechecker limits the damage his team can receive when they start their attack. Simply put, it’s about team defense first and foremost.

Types Of Forechecking

A successful forecheck is a lot more than seeking out the puck and trying to knock it loose. There are several different types of forechecks and knowing which one to implement depends on the situation at hand.

Here are some of the more common types of forechecks:

Sweepers

The sweeper forecheck is one of the most basic and straightforward types of forechecking. Basically, it’s a press-man defense that moves the puck forward, creating lanes for the forward rush.

This kind of forechecking is quite effective because it uses the body’s natural ballistics to knock the puck loose. When a rapid succession of bodies hits the puck, it often times results in a knockdown. Moreover, with faster legs, the sweeper forechecker can often times beat the puck carrier to the corner and force a mistake. That’s often times enough for the sweepers to get a shot on goal or at least force the opposition to play with more caution.

Towards The Net

The towards-the-net (or ‘ttn’ for short) forecheck seeks to take the puck carrier away from the puck before they have a chance to shoot it. For instance, the forechecker may aggressively pursue the puck carrier towards the net where they can receive a scoring chance. Of course, the opposition can seek to block the shot or tip the puck over the net for a safety catch.

When playing in the corners, the towards-the-net forecheck can be extremely effective because it prevents the player from entering the clear and allowing them to receive an open pass and a shot at netting a goal. Moreover, the defender can aggressively position themselves between the puck and the goaltender, allowing them to disrupt the play and potentially gain an assist on the blocked shot or tipped puck.

Blockers

The blocker forecheck seeks to prevent the opposing team from entering the zone by any means necessary. To do so, the blocker will endeavor to physically impede the opposing player who has the puck. The effectiveness of this kind of forechecking is based on how effective the individual players are at executing the technique. Moreover, the amount of space that the defender provides determines how successful this type of forechecking will be.

Off The Rush

After the puck has been established in the neutral zone, the off-the-rush forecheck seeks to prevent the opposing team from reentering the defensive zone. To do so, the defender will shadow the opposing player who has the puck and prevent them from making a quick transition to the offensive zone. This type of forechecking is effective when the opponent is carrying the puck into the zone. The defender can also seek to physically push the opposing player away from the puck. This technique is usually reserved for situations when the opposing team has a clear lane to the net and no one on the defense is responsible for guarding a particular area. For instance, when the opposing team has the puck in the corner and is looking to quickly transition to the offensive zone. In these situations, the defender off-the-rush can prevent the puck from entering the goal and enable the team to maintain possession of the puck.

Fights

Fights are quite common in hockey and usually occur when several players are vying for the same puck. When these types of situations arise, the players involved will go to great lengths to prevent the puck from being knocked out of bounds. Sometimes, this can lead to physical altercations. The purpose of a fight is to establish who is the best player on the ice and what position they deserve on the field.

Fights are quite dangerous because they not only result in bruises and scratches but they can also cause serious damage to a player’s reputation. This is why it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.

Puck Retrieval

When the puck is knocked into the air and the play continues in the same direction, the defenders will often go in for a ‘puck retrieval’. This is when the sweeper or blocker will swoop in and grab the puck before the opposing team can set up for a shot.

Although effective, puck retrievals can be dangerous because they require the player to come very close to the puck. Moreover, this type of defense requires close contact which often results in injuries to the body, especially the head and neck. That being said, the risk of getting hurt is quite low compared to the rewards of this type of defense. It is one of the most basics types of defense and it allows the team to maintain possession of the puck when defending against an advanced formation of attackers. This is why you will often see teams use this type of defense when playing against weaker teams or in smaller, informal games. In more formal competitions, the use of this type of defense is often a sign of a team’s lack of skill.

What’s The Difference?

The names ‘sweeper’, ‘blocker’, and ‘off-the-rush’ might give you a good idea of what these types of defense are. However, knowing the differences between each type of defense isn’t as easy. Some of these differences relate to how the defense is deployed while others pertain to the purpose of the technique itself.

In some instances, the name ‘sweeper’ might refer to a defender that is positioned near the blueline and covers the ice in front of the net. This type of sweeper limits the damage that can be done by the opposing team when they have the puck in the zone.

The blocker is another type of defense that you will often see in a two-man combination. This type of defensive unit is responsible for preventing the puck from entering the net and establishing a safe zone for the goaltender. The individual players responsible for this type of defense are typically large, physical presences who are willing to engage in a fight if necessary.

The off-the-rush forechecker is responsible for preventing the opposing team from entering the zone and attempting to transition to the offensive end. This type of forechecker will often aggressively push against the opposing player who has the puck and seek to impede their progress towards the goal. This type of forechecking can also be used to knock the puck loose when a team is in a rush to establish the puck in the offensive zone.

As you can see, there are many different types of defenses in hockey and knowing which one to implement depends on the situation at hand. Simply put, a successful forechecker limits the damage his team can receive when they start their attack. Moreover, a successful forechecker is typically responsible for team defense first and foremost.

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