There are many important aspects of defensive hockey, and backchecking is certainly a critical component. A player is either a great, eternally constant backchecker or an unacceptable one. Gradations of effort are unacceptable. If someone is not committed 100% to this task and solemn duty (always performing it as I shall describe), he is demonstrating selfishness, disloyalty to teammates, and emotional, moral, physical, and/or mental weaknesses (shortcomings).
When the competition gains possession and begins its attack (no matter where), all opposing forwards must instantly skate full speed toward their defensive zone and execute proper procedures. There are only excuses (NEVER any good reasons) why this is not done. Even if only one opponent is attacking against four competitors, the fifth defensive player should sprint toward his zone because ANYTHING negative can happen. The defensive players could trip, collide, misread assignments, be competitively outmaneuvered, etc. The fifth defensive player should never relax while assuming that things look good and the odds are that nothing negative will occur. Rather, on any aspect of backchecking, one should assume that, if he does not perform as I have stated, the opposition will score. Any scenario other than this defies the ideal of backchecking and team commitment.
In addition to what I have written, I believe that there are a myriad of specific reasons why players choose (it is always a choice) not to backcheck, such as: 1) they want to remain on the ice and conclude that, if they expend necessary energy, their future ice time will be shorter. 2) they are playing only for themselves and their offensive production which is not seemingly rewarded through backchecking; in other words, they seek statistical credit, a thought which overrides any intrinsic satisfaction 3) they are not held accountable by coaches for their lack of effort and concern 4) they are already tired and lacking in hockey character to at least do the best they can under current conditions 5) they have never learned about proper backchecking and its direct correlation with winning.
One test that can indicate a player’s dedication to and attitude about backchecking is when he is caught deep in the offensive zone at the end of a shift with heavy doses of lactic acid accumulating in his muscles while the score is one-sided. When he notices a great distance between himself and the attackers, will he extend himself to the fullest attempting to affect the play? What would you do? Proper backchecking should not be subject to compromise. Anyone can be a “fair weather friend”, but who can uphold the important principles of backchecking under extremely difficult conditions when no one might notice?
Hockey does not need any more pseudo-backcheckers. It is my earnest wish that one day I shall meet a special backchecker who will always prove that he attaches as much importance to this aspect of hockey as any other segment of the game.