A cross check in hockey refers to hitting an opponent with the shaft of your stick in a pushing motion. A cross check makes contact with the opposing player in the area between your hands on the sticks shaft.
This can be considered a very dangerous play in hockey while also being a major part of the game. When it comes to cross checking in hockey it all depends on the severity of the hit itself. A cross check can feel like a gentle push from behind or like getting whacked in the ribs with a piece of metal.
Is It Illegal To Cross Check In Hockey?
Yes in hockey it is illegal to crosscheck though the rules allow you a little wiggle room when it comes to this play.
The rule regarding crosschecks in the NHL states this:
the two hands to forcefully check an opponent. – NHL Rulebook
The key word of this rule is “forcefully”, this word lets us know that cross checks are a discretionary call in hockey. This means it is up to the refs judgement to determine whether a check is “forceful” or not.
If the act of crosschecks were completely illegal the word “forcefully” would not be needed in that rule.
If a referee decides that a crosscheck is illegal he must then call a penalty. There are a variety of different consequences that come with crosschecks due to the potential dangers of this play.
In most cases a crosscheck is going to get you a two minute minor penalty. This means the opposing team will be able to play five on four for two minutes.
If the referee determines that the cross check was forceful enough he is able to give out a major penalty. A major penalty means the offending player will spend five minutes in the penalty box. During this penalty kill the opposing team can score as many goals as they want and the player must remain in the box for the full five minutes.
When you receive a major penalty for cross checking you will also receive a game misconduct penalty. This means the offending player will be forced to miss the rest of the game.
If the referee determines that the player was attempting to injure the opponent with his forceful cross check then he has the ability to assess a match penalty. A match penalty is very similar to a game misconduct penalty in the NHL.
The difference when calling these penalties is that a match penalty is focus around the intent to injure. The consequences of these penalties are similar as both players are ejected from the game.
Though the fine for a match penalty is larger than the game misconduct. And a player given a match penalty is suspended until the commissioner rules on the cross check himself.
Why Is Cross Checking Bad?
Cross checking is considered bad in hockey simply due to the pain and potential injuries it may cause. The act of a cross check alone isn’t always painful which is why these hits are called so subjectively.
The issue with cross-checking is that when motivated this motion can be used to seriously injure a player. A regular cross-check isn’t going to cause much damage but one near the boards or in the head area can be incredibly dangerous.
With a cross check you are able to hit a player with a hard object as well as launch them into the boards. These can potentially become very dangerous plays. It is not the intention of most players that cross check to injure an opposing player.
But due to the potential injuries that can arise from aggressive cross-checks they have been written into the rule book.