What Is Cross-Checking In Hockey And How Is It Penalized?

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In this guide, we will look at what cross-checking is – yet another infraction in hockey.

Cross-checking isn’t something that you may commit accidentally, but it’s pretty common in the heat of the moment. Inexperienced players unaware of the illegality of cross-checking may commit it as well.

As always, understanding hockey infractions is important if you want to play cleanly and not put your team at a disadvantage. Well, read on to learn everything you need about cross-checking!

What Is A Cross-Check In Hockey?

Cross-checking is defined by Rule 609 of the USA Hockey rulebook and Rule 59 of the 2019-2020 NHL rulebook.

Cross-checking is a penalty that occurs when a player forcefully checks an opponent with the shaft of his stick between two hands. In other words, when holding the stick with two hands.

The USA Hockey rulebook also specifies that cross-checking is called when no portion of the stick is on the ice.

USA Hockey’s casebook additionally provides a few interesting details on cross-checking. As per the definition of cross-checking, when a player checks the opponent with two hands on the stick and the blade on the ice, the action is not considered cross-checking.

Besides, the action is not considered cross-checking if a defensive player doesn’t extend the arms but uses the stick to direct an attacking player in the desired direction. But if a competitive advantage is gained, the referee may call interference instead.

The USA Hockey rulebook also gives a video example of cross-checking for better demonstration:

Why Is Cross-Checking Illegal In Hockey?

Cross-checking in hockey is as welcome as a porcupine in a balloon shop. Sure, it might look tough, but it’s reckless and unnecessary.

This isn’t just some friendly warning from your old granny who’s too nervous to watch you play. This is real stuff, people. Cross-checking can dish out serious injuries. We’re talking broken ribs, neck traumas, and concussions. Heck, you might even end up with spinal damage that’ll make standing upright as tricky as a one-legged flamingo on an ice rink.

And let’s not forget the penalty box, or as I like to call it, the “hockey jail.” Cross-checking is a one-way ticket there; plus, you’re risking a game misconduct or even a multiple-game suspension.

Now, you may think that cross-checking is a way to look tough and intimidating, but let me tell ya, not only is it unsportsmanlike, but it’s also a massive slap in the face to the beautiful game of hockey.

Here’s what I tell my soon-to-be hockey legends: Keep your sticks on the ice and your heads in the game. Use your body positioning, stick handling, and skating skills – these are the real secret ingredients to being the Gretzky of your generation.

How is cross-checking penalized in hockey?

Cross-checking incurs a minor or major penalty, depending on the circumstances, the intent, and the infraction’s severity.

major penalty plus a game misconduct penalty is to be assessed when a player injures an opponent when cross-checking. At the referee’s discretion, a match penalty may also be assessed if the player attempted to or deliberately injured the opponent.

How do referees signal cross-checking?

To signal cross-checking, referees clench their fists and make a forward motion with both arms.

What Is The Difference Between Checking And Cross-Checking?

Checking refers to a number of defensive techniques in hockey aimed at gaining possession of the puck or disrupting an opponent’s advancements

Most types of checking are not penalized in hockey. Among legal checks are:

  • Body checking is when the player uses his shoulder, arms, and hips to check the opponent.
  • Hip checking is when the player bends down and swings his hips at the opponent.
  • Shoulder checking is when the player leads with the shoulder into an opponent.

As for illegal body checks, among them are checking from behind, cross-checking, charging, and boarding. These checks are more violent than legal body checks and are more likely to result in an injury.

With that in mind, the difference between legal body checking and cross-checking is that checking involves only parts of the attacker’s body, while cross-checking involves his stick.

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The Overtime

Hopefully, you now understand what checking is and how not to commit it!

Fortunately, cross-checking is relatively easy to identify on the ice and is pretty easy to avoid as a player. Keep the blade on the ice and the stick close to your body. And most importantly, check properly to avoid getting penalized.

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Cameron Wilson
Cameron Wilson
Cameron is from Ottawa and played college hockey for the Saskatchewan Huskies. He now coaches AA hockey. He is passionate about traveling, trekking, woodwork, and ethnic food. Cameron is also interested in sharing his knowledge about the beautiful game of hockey.