Have you ever been watching a hockey game and heard an announcer use the term finish their check? This hockey term is similar to healthy scratch or greasy goals as they have been around for a while but for many fans it can be confusing.
Finishing the check in hockey refers to continuing to check a player that has just given up possession of the puck. When a player lines up a hit it is not uncommon for that player to back out of the hit if the opposing player has gotten rid of the puck.
When a team is focusing on finishing their checks they will make sure to check a player even if he no longer has possession of the puck. You may be thinking this is illegal but the NHL rulebook actually allows a brief period of time in which players can be hit.
In most cases teams finish their checks in order to wear the opposing team out. This strategy has become less common in recent years due to the decreased physicality of hockey.
In Finishing Checks Legal In Hockey
By definition finishing a check refers to hitting a player that no longer possesses the puck. After all a hit on a puck carrier would simply be a regular check.
This begs the question of whether or not it is legal to hit a player that no longer has the puck. As we stated earlier the NHL allows for a breif period of contact after a player gives up possession.
The last player to touch the puck, other than the goalkeeper, shall be considered the player in possession. The player deemed in possession of the puck may be checked legally, provided the check is rendered immediately following his loss of possession. Obviously “immediately” isn’t a very exact term and leaves it up to the Refs discretion. 1.5-2 seconds is what is usually quoted to players from coaches when they are learning, but that’s a guideline and not a rule. – NHL Rulebook
As you can see in this quote a player will have a second or two after the possession of the puck is given up in order to hit the player.
Additionally, the rulebook states that this is up to the referees discretion. This means that the referee will decide in his opinion whether or not the check came too late after the player got rid of the puck.
So in short, yes finishing your check is legal in hockey so long as you do it shortly after the player has given up possession of the puck.
What Is The Purpose Of Finishing Your Checks
Now that you know what finishing your checks means in hockey you may be wondering why teams are so adamant about doing this during games. Afterall, it is usually coaches yelling to their players to finish their checks.
Below we will break several of the main reasons that hockey teams focus on finishing their checks.
Wearing Down The Opponents
One of the main reasons that teams make sure to finish their checks is to wear their opponents down. Preparing for and taking a hit each time you touch the puck is a very tiring process.
And if some of these hits put the opposing player on the ground then they will have to expend the energy to pick themselves back up.
After several periods these hits add up and can start to take their toll. Players will not only feel tired from reacting to the hits but they also will take a toll on your body.
This is especially true when playing a team in a playoff series. After several games of getting hit each time you have the puck it is fair to say it will have a physical affect on the opponent.
Taking The Man Out Of The Play
Another reason that teams focus on finishing their checks is that it is going to take the opponent ut of the play for a few seconds.
As we showed with the rule book players are able to make physical contact with their opponents a few seconds after they give up possession of the puck.
By hitting a player you are going to ensure that he or she will be out of the play for an extra few seconds.
This is not going to make a difference for most plays but every once and a while finishing a check will keep an extra attacker out of your defensive zone.
Getting Into Their Opponents Heads
One of the reasons that more physical NHL teams like to finish their checks is to get into the head of their opponents head.
Hockey players are some of the toughest athletes out there but at some point even they will begin to fear their opponents.
This consistent checking has a mental affect on players cause them to give up pucks quicker than usual in hopes of avoiding a check.
This sort of change in decision making is the exact thing physical teams hope for. If they are able to change the way their opponent is playing through their physical play then teams will continue to finish their checks.