What Is Forechecking In Hockey?

Forechecking is a technique used by teams to recover control of the puck in the attacking zone by pressuring the opposition in the offensive zone.

A strong forecheck makes it relatively hard for the other side to change-out players. This exhausts the opposing team and increases their likelihood of making mistakes.

There are forechecking systems for both the attacking and neutral zones. When a team is losing by a goal or two and is ready to take some chances, aggressive forechecking methods, such as a 2-1-2 forecheck, may be deployed.

The coach may also instruct the defense to press on the walls to make it difficult for opponents to get the puck out of the zone.

When a team is winning, conservative forechecks (the 1-2-2 or neutral zone trap) may be utilized to ensure that the other team does not obtain any odd-man rushes or easy scoring chances. In the mid-1990s, the New Jersey Devils were famous for this.

They would take a one or two-goal lead and then execute the trap flawlessly, making it virtually difficult for the other team to produce scoring chances.

In a normal forecheck scenario, one to three players exert pressure in the attacking zone. The primary player is either chasing a lost puck or pursuing the puck holder.

The other two players would either cut off the expected pass receiver or cover a clear-out attempt along the boards.

Previously, those three forecheckers were undoubtedly the team’s three forwards. However, in today’s game, you could see a defenseman (from the attacking side) move past the goal line to help with puck recovery. In that instance, one of the forwards (typically the centerman) is responsible for covering for their out-of-position defender.

What Are The Some Of The Forechecking Systems A Team Will Use?

The forechecking system used in the game will be largely determined by three factors:

  • The coach’s philosophy
  • The players on the team and their skills and abilities
  • The situation of the game

Coach’s philosophy –

Each coach has his or her own view of what it takes to win a hockey game and the processes required to do it. There are clearly diverse groups, with some being more conservative and others being more aggressive.

The forecheck can be implemented conservatively, with players sitting back. It can also be applied in a more aggressive and high-pressure manner.

Which system is chosen — cautious, aggressive, or somewhere in between – is heavily influenced by the coach’s thinking on what it takes to win a game.

The Players On The Team And Their Skills And Abilities –

The coach will assess the players he is given to deal with while deciding on a forechecking method and philosophy. Are the team’s members quick and skilled skaters? Depending on this, a coach may choose for a more aggressive fast skating system.

Do the team’s players have good size and physicality? Depending on this, a coach may opt for a more cautious approach that relies less on pace and more on boxing out players.

The Situation Of The Game

It is critical for a team to grasp one type of forechecking. However, there will be occasions or situations in a game when switching your forechecking strategy is useful. A team will certainly not use a cautious forecheck if they were down a goal with 5 minutes remaining.

The team will want to play aggressively – even if it means sacrificing defensive play – in an attempt to create scoring chances and tie the game. Alternatively, would a team want to be extremely aggressive when attempting to defend a lead towards the conclusion of the game? No, they will go for a more cautious strategy that reduces the number of opportunities against them.

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Different Forechecking Systems That Teams Can Implement In Hockey:

There are various methods for the five players on the ice to operate together as a forechecking unit, and these systems are typically denoted with formation numbers, such as 1-2-2 or 2-1-2. The most often used systems are described briefly below.

Standard Triangle

Objective: This is a triangle system in which one player is on the puck, the second is a support system, and the third may move to the slot for a scoring opportunity or drop back to a defensive position as required.

Players: This is an excellent method for younger players or at the start of a season when a squad comes together. It is simple and easy to teach. It will teach the players fundamental checking techniques as well as how to read and react to moves.

Key Points:

  • It is simple to teach and only requires basic checking skills.
  • Pressurises the puck carrier
  • Forwards learn how to collaborate.
  • Prevents the opponents from breaking out 3-on-2.
1 – 2 – 2

Objective: The 1-2-2 is a cautious strategy in which the center will generally press the puck while the wingers will stay on the side boards. This encourages the defensive team’s defenders to carry the ball out and denies the forwards 3-on-2 opportunities.

Players: This is a wonderful system to use if your team has big wingers since it allows you to control the play around the boards. It is also rather simple to teach, and most teams may encounter scenarios that need a 1-2-2.

Key Points:

  • Adaptable to most opposition breakout plays
  • Balanced between positions, with no one being crucial
  • Controlling the boards is critical for the wingers.
  • Positional play is emphasised while only minor modifications are required.
1 – 4

Objective: The 1-4 method is maybe the most conservative form of the forechecking system used. Only one forward — generally the center – will be sent into the offensive zone. The other two forwards will take a step back and play defense. The neutral zone trap is another name for this technique.

Players: This is a method that is frequently used by teams who are short on gifted and skillful players. It is used by a less talented team to halt a more talented squad. It is also frequently utilized near the end of games to try to maintain a lead.

Key Points:

  • Does not emphasize pressure and instead surrenders the offensive zone.
  • Two strikers and two defenders will form a difficult-to-pierce wall.
  • Always defend with four guys against three strikers.
  • Four players are assigned greater territorial authority.
  • Forechecking generates opportunities through neutral zone turnovers and rapid counterattacks.

1 – 1- 3 Off Wing Stay Back

Objective: This is a forecheck that combines aggression with conservatism. It is also known as the Left-Wing Lock. The Centre and the winger on the other side of the puck will attack the puck aggressively in the opposing zone.
If control is acquired, the winger on the offside of the ball will stay back and function as a third defenseman, with the opportunity to jump deeper into the attacking zone.

In one variant of the system, the left-wing will be tasked with staying back closer to the defenseman. They will function as rover defenders who can come up if needed, but their primary role will be defensive awareness.

Players: This is an excellent method for teams with strong skating abilities. The players can swiftly go in deep to attack the opponent, while the third forward may glide into the gap if a chance presents.

Key Points:

  • Allows for forward-thinking on counterattacks.
  • Opponent 3-on-2s are prevented.
  • Forward skating is essential.
  • It is possible to modify it to provide a stiffer left-wing lock.
2 -1- 2

Objective: This is a very aggressive forechecking technique introduced by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. They’d send in two forwards to forecheck one of the defenses or wingers.
The defensive team is always under pressure in the hopes that they will make bad passes and induce turnovers. The defense has also become more active in terms of assisting the forwards and being aggressive around the boards.

Players: To accomplish this, a highly trained squad is required. The team must continually communicate with one another, particularly between the center and the defense. As they progress, the squad must be superb skaters who can adapt to constantly changing conditions and interpret plays well.

Key Points:

  • This system is tough to understand.
  • Players will swap places as they cover and assist one another. The opposition will be assaulted at all times and in all locations.
  • Defenders are more active and will frequently pinch up along the boards — the forward must know how to recover and cover the defensive players.
Aggressive Overload

Objective: This is an exceedingly aggressive approach that is used If a team wants to score a goal. The strikers have no defensive responsibility and must maintain continual pressure at all times. Defensive players are also positioned wider than usual and are urged to pinch in on the puck and come forward in the attacking zone.

Players: If this is to be implemented, teams will need to be quick and have highly competent players. Most teams, though, would use this style of forechecking when they are trailing at the conclusion of the game. At this stage, it’s worth taking a few chances in order to score a goal or two!

Key Points:

  • Forwards are mainly concerned with puck pressure and have no defensive responsibilities.
  • Defense is seeking for openings to enter the attacking zone and is willing to take risks.
  • Forwards will all play deep in the opponent’s zone.
  • Used as a technique to get goals when they are severely needed.
3 -2 Press

Objective: This is a strategy that is employed in a few select instances, such as during a face-off or near the conclusion of a period, when a team’s ability to counterattack to produce a scoring chance is doubtful. The three forwards will essentially be deep in the zone, pressing the puck to force a turnover. Following a turnover, the players will launch a rapid attack at the net.

Players: Because the players will be on forward during these precise times, the individuals executing this are generally the team’s greatest scoring forwards. To apply so much pressure, a player must be an excellent skater who is quick to the puck.

Key Points:

  • Three forwards pressing the puck at the same time is a key approach.
  • High-intensity, quick-thinking strategy is required
  • Done at critical situations, such as at the end of a period.


1. What is forechecking and backchecking in hockey?

Forechecking is described as applying defensive pressure in the attacking zone with the objective of forcing a turnover. Forwards often perform the majority of the forechecking by pressing opposition defenders and forwards as they attempt to get out of their own zone.

Backchecking, on the other hand, is described as defensive pressure delivered in the defensive and neutral zones with the goal of causing a turnover. It entails chasing your opponents while sprinting back to protect your own zone.

The goal of forechecking and backchecking is the same: to induce turnovers and gain control of the puck. They should be considered as components of the same strategic system rather than as distinct portions of the game.

2. How do you forecheck?

A good strategy of forechecking is required, with one to three players providing pressure in the attacking zone.

In the case of a turnover, one player generally attacks the puck-handler in the corner or along the boards, while the other two forwards block probable passing lanes and are ready to either intercept an erroneous pass or move into position to receive a feed from a teammate. Meanwhile, the forechecking defenders drop back to prepare for a rush if the breakaway succeeds.

3. What is the best forecheck in hockey?

The conservative forecheck 1-4, often known as the trap, is regarded as the best forecheck in hockey. The 1-4 consists of one deep forechecker and four skaters set up at the blueline to form a four-man wall to prevent the opposing offense from progressing into the neutral zone. Essentially, four skaters are playing defense.

4. How do you teach forechecking in hockey?

To teach forechecking, have the player closest to the puck carrier apply fast pressure, limiting the puck carrier’s passing or movement options. Teaching players fundamental forechecking techniques such as angling, pinning, checking, skating, and so on is an excellent way to start.

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