Hitting in Women&39s Hockey: Why Not?

    From time to time I will be asked if hitting (bodychecking) should be allowed in women’s hockey. For those unfamiliar with the rules of the female game, while bodily contact is allowed and occurs quite frequently, body control is not. handing in a bodycheck constitutes a light penalty of two minutes.

    If you really want to know my personal opinion, I never thought hitting was necessary in the women’s game. I feel like incorporating body control would take away from what I enjoy most about women’s hockey: the skating, the plays, the puck battles, the sheer grace of the game.

    Reading: Can women check in hockey

    Without being able to body check to neutralize an opponent or create a turnover, there is a much more cerebral and tactical approach to women’s hockey that is not found in other sports. It’s what led me to follow the game from Nagano ’98 and find a hockey hero in one of the players whose opinions I’ll be offering shortly.

    My own opinion carries only (very) modest weight, though I certainly appreciate any instance where I’m asked to comment on the game I love so much. so when it was put to me, “should there be hitting in women’s hockey?” – the first thought that came to my mind is that I am the wrong person to answer this question.

    The players have always been much better equipped to answer questions like these, and they are the ones whose opinions are most important in this regard. therefore, having posed the question to you, I have gathered the thoughts of 19 current and former players from around the world to weigh in on the matter.

    The 19 include eight Olympians, two Angela James Bowl champions, three Isobel Cup champions, five Clarkson Cup winners, two NCAA Champions and two current NCAA Division I players. I am very grateful for all the opinions that each of them shared with me.

    pernilla winberg – linköping hc forward (sdhl); 4 times olympic for sweden

    “I think it would be hard to change the rules right now, and it would probably take some time for players to adjust. I like the way it is now because it’s still a physical hockey but also very skillful as it’s not just about hitting.”

    a. J. mleczko – 2-time Olympian for the US team; hockey analyst for the nbc and msg networks

    “I don’t think the game needs it. As one of the bigger players when I played, I imagine it would have benefited me, but the game is physical, fast-paced and incredibly entertaining as it is currently played. the only argument to pass would be to make a game with more consistent referees; it would help minimize the gray area left to the referee’s discretion. but as the game continues to evolve, the officiating has become more consistent. I don’t think adding verification is terrible, but I don’t think our game needs it.”

    alyssa gagliardi – pwhpa defender; isobel cup and clarkson cup champion

    See also: England Hockey League – Women&x27s Divisions

    “I think the women’s game thrives on body contact as it is today because it better highlights the skill of the game: passing, skating, shooting, stick handling, play making. you even see the men’s and men’s game transition to more focus on body contact and less on hard hitting on open ice because at the end of the day, the point of the game, male or female, is possession of the puck and scoring goals . I think the talent and skill of women’s soccer is best displayed in its current form.”

    jillian dempsey – boston pride team captain; isobel cup and clarkson cup champion

    “The women’s game is a great balance between skill and physicality. although there are no punches, there is a lot of body contact and fighting. I like that the focus is on speed and skill.”

    tatiana shatalova – metropolitan riveters forward; former member of the Russian under-18 women’s team

    “I think that just like in men’s hockey, women’s hockey also has emotions. sometimes you want to use your hands and your body. On the ice, we don’t have to be ‘girly,’ this is hockey.”

    caroline ouellette – 4 time olympic gold medalist for team canada; a clarkson cup and ncaa champion

    “I like our game as it currently is and body controls are not allowed. however, I would like body contact to be allowed along the boards when two players are skating in the same direction. I think referees should just call a blatant bodycheck and let a lot of physical play through. Our game should be played primarily 5v5. Unfortunately, at the moment, we have to adapt to each referee from game to game, as some are very lenient on physical contact and others are very harsh. I want physical play allowed.”

    marie-jo pelletier – buffalo beaus star defense

    “I don’t think hitting is beneficial for women’s hockey as it could take away some of the skill that is being shown. the women’s game can get quite physical without hitting. it could also discourage some girls from continuing to play the sport.”

    venla hovi – 3 times Olympian for the Finnish team; clarkson cup champion

    “I think hitting in the women’s game is unnecessary. the game is getting faster and faster and the number of head injuries in both men’s and women’s hockey is alarming. women’s hockey is a physical game based on skill and tactics, and I think men’s hockey will eventually have to adapt and make changes.”

    jonna curtis – star forward for the minnesota whitecaps; isobel cup champion

    “I may be biased, but I think what makes women’s hockey stand out is the finesse we bring because we can’t hit. And just because we can’t “body check” doesn’t mean our games aren’t physical. any female hockey fan can tell you that our games are very physical. I love a physical game, but it’s just a different style that we’ve adopted. so I guess I’d say I don’t think ‘body checks’ are needed in women’s hockey.”

    alexandra vafina – sk gorny ukhta forward in ЖХЛ; 2 times Olympian for the Russian team

    “Personally, I think body checks and hitting in women’s hockey are not necessary. it is the game itself that is interesting. the beauty and aesthetics of ice hockey are concentrated in our style of play without rough and tumble play. people like to see the tactical style of the game, the interactions on the ice between line partners and the beautiful stick handling movements.”

    so jung shin – 2018 korean women’s team olympian, former metropolitan riveter goalkeeper

    “I think female hockey players in the major leagues are already hitting during the game, but not doing a full body check. hitting is a part of women’s hockey now, and the public probably expects to see hitting in women’s hockey (when they tune in). hockey players play at a very high level to do anything on the ice.”

    eveliina suonpää – linköping hc goalkeeper; 2 times Olympian for the Finnish team

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    “From my perspective, it’s a bit hard to say, since it doesn’t affect my game that much. the women’s game is already very physical, but at the moment it is very difficult for the referees to differentiate what ‘contact’ means. maybe there could be room for rule changes to allow more body contact without it taking over the game.”

    jenny harß – 2-time Olympian for the germany team; ncaa champion with umd

    “I guess I could do it either way. I don’t think body control defines women’s hockey as it can get pretty physical already anyway.”

    alva johnsson – long island university forward; former member of the Swedish under-18 women’s team

    “I love the physical aspect of the game. I’m a big, smart player who plays very physical, so bodychecking would really benefit me and my game. I like the way our game has been developed without body controls: the fast, smart and technical game. but personally I think women’s and men’s hockey should have the same rules to make the sport grow and get more people to watch it.”

    hanna thuvik – swedish women’s under-18 team

    “I think we should change the rules and allow body control and body contact in women’s hockey. Today, the biggest difference between women’s and men’s hockey is body contact and rhythm. many people probably think that the beauty of the game would be ruined and others are worried that the flow will deteriorate. but I don’t think the body check will ruin the women’s game. rather, I think the pace would increase as the girls became stronger and wiser. that would include being able to receive, give, and undermine bodily control.

    The risk is that concussions will increase, but I think if girls learned body contact at the same age as boys, more and more players would be prepared to take hits like this. if girls were given the opportunity to body check, then I think it would increase interest in women’s hockey. people miss the physical game. With bodychecking included, I think we can open up women’s football to a wider audience.”

    noemi neubauerová – colgate university striker; member of the women’s national team of the Czech Republic

    “Personally, growing up playing hockey as a kid, I was used to playing with my body for the most part. I still find myself being more physical at times during a game. In my opinion, I think playing with the body is an important aspect of hockey, and since it’s women playing against women, I would say that body control should be allowed to some degree.”

    jess jones – pwhpa forward; 2016-17 cwhl angela james bowl catcher

    “Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to hit in the women’s game. I think if you look at the way the men’s game is going now, it’s like avoiding hitting a little bit more and moving towards more skill and speed. I think that’s what women’s football is about today. body contact is great. I think we can even allow a bit more, but the game is moving away from those big open ice hits. it’s about positioning and angle, which is very challenging. “

    emma vlasic – connecticut whale star forward

    “I think there is already a lot of body control in women’s football, in my opinion. I think the speed of the game is the most important aspect of both the men’s and women’s game, and it’s not so much the hitting that slows it down as it is the hook.”

    kateřina mrázová – brynäs if ahead; clarkson cup champion and member of the czech republic women’s national team

    “I think bodychecking is part of hockey and should be allowed in women’s hockey as well. I’m talking about body checking from the side when it’s shoulder to shoulder, at the same level. also, not allowing body control causes many other penalties, such as cuts or trips, and it is more difficult to take the puck from another player.”

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