Hockey 101: Cross Checking

This is part of our Hockey 101 Series


Hockey players hit each other a lot. It is just a normal part of the game. Hitting is an art, but there are plenty of occurrences when it happens illegally. The cross checking penalty is so easy to spot that I am willing to bet, after reading this, you will be capable of being a referee in an NHL game (if you only had to call the one penalty and didn’t have to skate).

Cross Checking in Detail

cross checking
(Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

The shaft of the stick is considered a weapon. Using it as a part of a hit is a dangerous play. The above picture is not one of a cross check but does show how a player can hold his stick while cross checking. This hit is legal because the stick is not the point of contact. A cross check is defined as follows:

The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent

Imagine making two fists and holding something between them, that is the form of a cross check. Most professional players do not raise their stick while hitting to avoid receiving a penalty. Therefore, this penalty is often more out of frustration than out of necessity.

cross checking
Some cross checks are not penalties (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

The picture above shows a player in the classic cross checking position. But this is not a forceful check. Slight shoves with the stick in hand might not be called as penalties if they are not hard hits. A shove can be given leeway, but if it happens multiple times and becomes malicious, then a penalty can be called.


As with all penalties, it is at the referees discretion to assess either a minor, double minor, major, etc. penalty for a cross check. Minors are the most common as it is very rare to see a cross check that can earn more discipline.