The sight of peewee hockey players nailing each other with open-ice hits or rubbing each other out against the boards may be a thing of the past.
Al Hubbs, president of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA), said the policy Alberta Hockey decided upon two weeks ago, which would ban checking until bantam as a way to reduce youth injuries and concussions, probably will follow suit in this province. He said this could actually be the wrong way to go as bringing in checking for the atom or novice groups instead would teach adolescents the proper way to hit opposing players earlier on thus reducing the possibility of kids getting hurt.
“Our belief here in Saskatchewan has been that you have to start teaching it and implementing it at a younger age, so that they learn the respect part of it,” said Hubbs. “One of the things that is being bantered about in this go-around on body checking in moving it from peewee to bantam is there is quite a size differential at peewee. Well in 2002 we changed the ages (of peewee). It didn’t really solve any problems and that’s the premise we’re going on. Is this a Band Aid solution or is there other things we should be doing.”
Hubbs said the size differential of bantam players is greater as some of these 13 and 14 year olds could vary between 5’4″ and 110 lb to 6’2″ and 190 lb, so moving the first learning of how to hit and take a hit to the novice and atom levels when there isn’t so much of a difference would be the safest way. He said the SHA has not seen an increase lately with injuries or concussions among peewee players due to body checking, but the data that is collected doesn’t differentiate between if a player got hurt getting checked or by just falling on the ice.
“The medical experts are saying there is a huge increase in concussions and I believe they’re right, but I think they are just recognizing it a lot more than they used to in the past,” he said.
Patrick Neary, a doctor in the faculty of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Regina, said he welcomes a stop to checking among peewee players from both a personal and professional standpoint. He said there should be an emphasis on teaching skating and puck handling skills to 11- and 12-year-old kids rather than focusing on the physical aspect of the game.
“I’m happy to hear that Alberta has gone that route,” said Neary. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to affect the hockey. It may even make it better hockey. One of the things it will do is it will help to eliminate some of the concussions that we’re seeing at this young age.”
To read more please see the May 20 print edition of The Davidson Leader.