The most common association with the idea of "physicality" in hockey refers to a player's or a team's willingness to engage their opponent through brute force and intimidation. This involved delivering intense hits on a player to move them away from the puck or from scoring opportunities, delivering "enforcer" style hits on a player in full speed motion, and also ensuring checks on the glass to deliver a message to the player and the opposing team. "Physicality" or physical play refers to using sticks, in some cases, to generate this message or also engaging the opponent through physical confrontation. In a recent competition, the Phoenix Coyote's Raffi Torres delivered a brutal and physical hit on the Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa, causing him to be carried off on a stretcher. There was no penalty assessed during the game, with the hit being classified as "physical." In a recent New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils series, it was defined as "physical" due to the hits and fights that were generated from it. The "physicality" of hockey is a reference to how brute strength is used to test the "softness" of a team. If a team is perceived to be "soft," hockey players will use physical means to destabilize the team's mentality, causing the opponent to focus or be preoccupied with the next hit as opposed to scoring opportunities with the puck or preventing them from happening. It is here where "physicality" is as much an aspect of a team's mentality or approach as much as any other component of a game plan.
Physicality can actually be in reference to most every sport. In fact, physicality is even used in acting/theater performance, in which it refers to the physical actions of a character.
For hockey (and most every sport, especially very physical ones like hockey and football) physicality means the willingness and ability of a player to become physical with an opponent. Meaning, it is when a player is not afraid to knock someone into a wall to get the puck from them, or some other form of brute force in order to help their team win the game. Physicality is a huge part of determining a good hockey player, because a good portion of hockey is being physical.
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