By Jennifer Thurbide
Peewee hockey coaches will have a new set of rules to follow this winter as Hockey Canada has said it will be amending its rulebook to eliminate body-checking for all youth under 13 years of age.
The organization that governs most hockey clubs in Canada announced the rule change which will remove body-checking from “Peewee levels and below.” It was voted on and approved by its members on May 25 and will come into effect for all leagues under its jurisdiction starting in 2013-14.
“We’re really looking at the skill of checking, and body-checking is the last stage,” said Bob Nicholson, Hockey Canada President, ahead of last week’s vote. “We’re going to really emphasize how you teach checking at a young age.”
The organization also voted to build a “mandatory national level checking and instructional resource program” aimed at the Novice to Peewee level to “better prepare players for body-checking” before they reach the Bantam level, which is now the first year players will be allowed to hit. This coaching standard is expected to be introduced in 2014-15.
With less than four months until the local hockey season gets underway in the Red Lake District, local Peewee coaches are reviewing the decision and are assessing how the policy shift will affect players locally.
Coach Peter Gula says the change will have an immediate impact on players who are in their second year of Peewee who last year were allowed to check and this year will be prohibited. However, Gula says he questions the rationale behind moving the teaching of the skill to a higher level, when body shapes can vary greatly.
“If it were up to me I would lower it because what happens is as you move the body contact to the older age kids are larger, stronger, bigger,” explains Gula. “You could be asking for trouble when you are trying to teach a bigger kid body contact opposed to bringing it down a lower level even and showing [players] the importance of how to hit correctly.”
Parent Denise Rogalinski echoed the concern last week: “I don’t see the point because you are just making them older when they are hitting. Why not teach them when they are willing to listen and absorb that knowledge.”
Nicholson says the organization had received numerous comments from parents advocating for both a lowering and a rising of the age when players are body-checking however furthered explained: “I think that the evidence is starting to show that it should come at a later age.”
Statistics have shown that injuries are on the rise and Gula suspects this has led to the quick decision on behalf of the governing body.
“Whether it is knee jerk reaction to show that they are doing something… I am not sure that that is the solution. Bringing it up in age brings about a whole new set of problems and I am not sure if they know that. Hopefully they do and hopefully they did their homework,” he adds.
The move by Hockey Canada follows that made by hockey associations in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Alberta.