There has been a movement afoot in hockey over recent years to replace angling with stick on puck checking where the player reaches and plays the puck with their stick instead of closing the gap to get shoulder to shoulder and cut through a player’s hands to get position on the player to regain puck possesison. The concern about concussions in hockey is legitimate as player safety is important for the athletes and the game. Angling when executed properly does require speed and physicality. Angling executed properly does not require excessive force or need for a hit involving concussive force. Angling is an essential part of the game and it is my hope that the skill that has been missing from the game comes back into the game to the benefit of players, teams, organizations and the fans. Angling will only come back into the game if coaches understand the importance of bringing it back into the game and reintroduce proper angling technique to players and explain when it should be used, why it should be used and how it should be properly executed.
There is lots of room in the game for stick on puck checking because there are times it is the right play and the best play option. What is equally important to recognize is that proper angling is an essential checking skill to protect middle ice (between the dots) and force puck turnovers in all three zones of the rink. Hockey is a Possession Game (PG) and angling, when executed properly, is both safe and the best way of defending middle ice and forcing a puck turnover which makes the game more exciting and interesting to play and watch. There is no skilled play in hockey more challenging for a player to execute than taking the right approach angle, matching the speed of the Puck Carrier and skating that player off outside the dots to separate them from the puck and regain puck possession at the same time, which should be the goal of every angling check.
We see too many instances in today’s game where a player takes the puck North – South through the middle of the ice (between the dots) and scores a goal and instead of questioning the failure to defend we praise the offensive player’s skills. The top teams defend the neutral zone and take away the ability to carry the puck North-South through the zone with speed and puck control.
Angling In All Three Zones
Angling is an essential skill every hockey player must have to become a complete player. Defence wins championships so every player on the team must be a good checker and possess the skills and abilities to protect middle ice and create forced puck turnovers to thwart an offensive attack. Playing with the puck is more fun than playing without the puck so teaching players how to effectively angle check safely to regain puck possession and control is a must. Angling is a checking skill requirement in all three zones of the rink. You cannot be a good forechecking player or group without being skilled in proper angling technique. Every good offensive group uses angling to force puck turnovers to support their transition game and counter attack quickly to create scoring chances.
There is too much reaching and stick checking in today’s game. The reaching and stick checking results in needless tripping penalties and fails to achieve what a well executed angling check will achieve and that’s a forced puck turnover (puck separation) and the ability to regain puck possession at the same time. There are lots of excellent drills out there to support the teaching of proper angling skills with the right technique. The right approach angle allows a player to match the speed of their opponent and “cut through the hands” of the player and get in front of the player to separate him/her from the puck and regain puck possession and control at the same time. Angling should be taught with forwards and defensemen in all three zones both skating forwards and backwards. There should be an emphasis on speed and physicality without excessive force so the Angle Checker remains in balance and control of their body and stick to regain puck possession and control as part of their execution. A player is not a complete player without learning how to take away time and space, protect middle ice and regain puck possession and control from a puck carrier by angle checking. Recommend Angle Checking be the focus for kids interesting in playing the game at higher levels and the higher levels should spend some time teaching the skill to competitive players aspiring to be complete players.
David Urquhart – Angling and How to Teach it Video
There should be a focus on teaching angling to players in all three zones. Stick on puck checking is fine but it doesn’t replace the effectiveness of proper angling in hockey which has been a fundamental part of our game since its inception. Angling is a lost art and it needs to come back into the game and become an effective defensive play to help teams win the Possession Game. The reaching by players and playing stick on puck in situations where they should be angling needs to be addressed in today’s game for the development of the players and teams and benefit of the fans.