Hockey Boarding: Understanding the NHL’s Boarding Penalty!

As hockey enthusiasts, we know that the game can be fast-paced and intense, with players constantly moving and jostling for control of the puck. One of the most controversial and potentially dangerous aspects of the game is boarding. But what exactly is boarding in hockey?

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of boarding penalties, providing you with a detailed understanding of this rule violation in the game of ice hockey.

Understanding Boarding in Ice Hockey

Boarding occurs when a player intentionally or recklessly hits an opponent from behind or into the boards, causing them to be thrown violently into the boards or the ice. This type of hit is considered dangerous and can result in serious injury. As a result, boarding is penalized in hockey, with the offending player being sent to the penalty box for two, four, or five minutes, depending on the severity of the infraction.

The Rulebook Definition

According to the official ice hockey rulebook, boarding is defined as:

“Any player who checks or pushes an opponent violently into the boards, causing potential harm or injury, shall be assessed a boarding penalty.”

USA Hockey Rule Book

It is crucial to note that the severity and intent behind the boarding action play a significant role in determining the appropriate penalty.

Video Example

In the video above, we can see a hockey player wearing a yellow jersey from the Nashville team making a forceful hit on a player wearing a white jersey from the Avalanche team. This kind of hit is called “boarding” and is penalized in hockey. There are a couple of reasons why this hit is considered boarding. Firstly, the Nashville player hits the Avalanche player in the back without trying to go after the puck. Secondly, the hit happens after the Avalanche player has already passed the puck and had enough space to avoid contact. These actions are against the rules of the game and result in a penalty for the Nashville player.

Identifying Boarding Penalties

Recognizing a boarding penalty during a fast-paced ice hockey game can be challenging, but with the following key indicators, you can become adept at identifying this infraction:

  1. Forceful Impact: A player propelling another player into the boards with excessive force is a clear sign of a potential boarding penalty. The impact may result in the victim losing balance or crashing into the boards violently.
  2. Distance from Boards: When a player is checked or pushed into the boards from a significant distance away, it raises concerns about a possible boarding violation. The further the victim is from the boards at the time of contact, the greater the chance of a boarding penalty.
  3. Lack of Defense: If the targeted player is unaware of the impending check or is unable to defend themselves, it suggests a violation of the boarding rule. Players should have a reasonable opportunity to protect themselves from unnecessary harm.

Consequences of Boarding Penalties

Boarding penalties carry varying degrees of consequences depending on the severity and intent of the infraction. The most common penalties associated with boarding include:

  1. Minor Boarding Penalty: When a player commits a minor boarding infraction, they are typically sent to the penalty box for two minutes. During this time, their team plays shorthanded, creating a numerical advantage for the opposing team.
  2. Major Boarding Penalty: A major boarding penalty results in the player being ejected from the game and receiving a five-minute penalty. Additionally, the player may face supplemental discipline from the league, leading to further suspensions or fines.
  3. Game Misconduct: In severe cases of boarding where intent to injure is evident, the referee may assess a game misconduct penalty. This penalty results in immediate ejection from the game and may lead to additional suspensions and fines.

Preventing Boarding Incidents

To promote player safety and reduce the occurrence of boarding penalties, both players and coaches should emphasize proper technique, awareness, and respect for the game. Here are some key preventive measures:

  1. Training and Education: Coaches should prioritize teaching players about the dangers of boarding and focus on skill development and safe-checking techniques during training sessions.
  2. Fair Play and Sportsmanship: Instilling a culture of fair play and respect for opponents can significantly reduce the likelihood of boarding incidents. Encouraging players to compete within the boundaries of the rules fosters a safer and more enjoyable game environment.
  3. Body Positioning and Control: Players should be taught to maintain proper body positioning and control during checks. This includes avoiding hitting opponents from behind and ensuring that checks are executed within the legal target zone, which is generally defined as the area from the opponent’s shoulders down to the lower back.
  4. Game Awareness: Developing a strong sense of game awareness is crucial in preventing boarding incidents. Players should constantly scan the ice, anticipating potential collisions, and adjusting their actions accordingly to avoid dangerous situations.
  5. Responsible Checking: Emphasize responsible checking techniques that prioritize player safety. Coaches should teach players to deliver checks with controlled force and target the opponent’s body rather than their head or numbers.
  6. Penalty Kill Strategies: When a player’s team is shorthanded due to a boarding penalty, implementing effective penalty kill strategies becomes essential. Coaches should train their players on positioning, defensive tactics, and communication to minimize scoring opportunities for the opposing team.


In conclusion, understanding the rules and consequences of boarding penalties in ice hockey is paramount to ensuring the safety of players and maintaining the integrity of the game. By recognizing the key indicators of boarding, implementing preventive measures, and responding appropriately to infractions, we can promote a safer and more enjoyable ice hockey experience for everyone involved.

Austin Taylor

Who is Austin Taylor?

Meet Austin Taylor, your go-to source for everything ice hockey! With a passion for the sport that’s as deep as the ice itself, Austin Taylor brings you concise, expert insights and nitty-gritty details on all things hockey. From gear reviews to strategy breakdowns, Austin Taylor is your trusted guide to navigating the exhilarating world of ice hockey. Get ready to lace up your skates and dive into the game with Austin Taylor as your ultimate companion.

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