Chris Pryor

A pro scout on physicality

By Chris Pryor

Hockey has always been unique in that it incorporates skill with physical confrontation. When a player has the puck, the opposition can use physical force to get possession of the puck. The reason for a body check is to separate the player from the puck.

If we are to watch hockey, there is a trend that has occurred: Forget the puck and just try to run the opponent through the boards. The more fierce the hit, the better. Intimidation is and always will be a constant, BUT within the rules of the game. 

The rules of the game? When kids are first introduced to checking, this should be taught and carried out. Sticks down when you hit and heads up when you have the puck.

The puck carrier needs to be held accountable, too. If you skate around with your head down, bad things usually happen. We not only need to teach how to hit, but also how “not to” put yourself in a compromising situation.

When a player goes back for a puck, the opposition needs to learn to angle that player off. However, the player with the puck cannot turn back into the path of the ongoing forecheck; he too needs to be accountable.

We need to continue to teach young players to angle players off and use their own bodies to separate the puck carrier from the puck. When a check is delivered legally, it is very effective.

However, when it occurs illegally, it must be dealt with. Referees should have zero tolerence. Kids need to realize the wrongs of the game and there are consequences for their actions.

We want to eliminate checking from behind, but at times we talk out of both sides of our mouths. There are instances that an illegal hit goes for a two- to five-minute penalty. If we really want to address this, let’s tighten it up.

Example: A hit from behind brings a game suspension. You do it again and it doubles, etc., etc., etc. You learn real quick that in order to play, you need to be within the rules of the game. If not, you will be sitting and watching and watching and watching, which over time you will figure it out one way or the other: Either decide to play the right way or not play at all.
 
Chris Pryor is the director of hockey operations for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is in charge of the amateur and pro scouting departments. A native of St. Paul, Pryor spent eight seasons as a scout for the Flyers. He played parts of six seasons in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars and New York Islanders. If you have a question for a pro hockey scout, e-mail it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..