Charging in hockey refers to making contact with a player after taking several strides or travelling at a high speed over an excessive distance. Essentially a charge in hockey is going to be called when you hit a player with an excessive amount of force that you have generated.
The official NHL rulebook states this about charging:
“Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of
distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A
“charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal
frame or in open ice.” – NHL rulebook
As you can see a charge has less to do with the type of hit and more to do with the speed and violence involved in it. The rules states that it does not matter if the player is hit into an object on the ice or just an open ice hit.
This is essentially saying that this rule covers all the checks in which a player is coming in with too much speed or over too long a distance.
Charging A Goalie
Charging a goalie is another aspect of this rule that is often forgotten. A large portion of the times you see a player make a large collision with a goaltender charging is going to be called. Here is what the NHL has to say regarding charging goalies.
“A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal
crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every
case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a
goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the
Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing
the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has
made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.” – NHL Rulebook
In short, the rule on charging goalies states that even if outside of the crease you must make your best effort to avoid them. It is also fair to say that big hits on a goalie never go unnoticed. This means you should do your best to avoid this sort of contact as it is going to be called every time.
Like most penalties the majority of chargining calls are going to result in a minor penalty. This means two minutes of five on four hockey while the offending player sits in the box.
Though in more extreme cases a player may get a five-minute major, match penalty, or a game misconduct penalty.
Five Minute Major
A five minute major penalty will be assessed by the ref based on the violence of the charge. This is based on the referees discretion and in most cases will be assessed a minor penalty instead of a major.
A match penalty is assessed to the offending player if the ref determines that the charge was done with an intent to injure the opponent. This is again a decision the referee is going to make based on his discretion.
When a match penalty is called the player who committed the charge will be removed from the game.
A game misconduct penalty is given to a player that receives a five minute major penalty for a charge that results in an injury to an opponents head or neck.
In other words, if a player receives a five-minute penalty and the opponent’s head is injured then the offender is going to receive a game misconduct penalty. When this penalty is called the offending player will be removed from the game.
Charging Vs Boarding
If you are like many hockey fans out there you can’t quite tell the difference between charging and boarding. The difference between these two penalties is that a charging penalty can happen anywhere on the ice.
Whether a hit is into the boards, into the net, or on open ice it can still be called a charge. While a boarding penalty requires a player to be hit into the boards in order to be called.
It is also fair to say that a charging penalty is based on the speed with which you hit a player. While a boarding penalty refers to hitting a player into the boards in a way that may be dangerous.