Hockey Canada board votes to ban bodychecking for peewee players
Published Saturday, May 25, 2013 12:48PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 26, 2013 9:37AM EDT
Hockey Canada has voted to eliminate bodychecking for peewee-level players.
In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the organization said its "Board of Directors has voted to eliminate body-checking from Peewee hockey."
According to the vice-president of Hockey Development, Saturday’s vote was a "watershed moment" for peewee hockey.
"It’s a good decision, and a win-win for kids," Paul Carson told CTV’s News Channel in an interview from Charlottetown, P.E.I. where the annual meeting was held.
Carson said Saturday’s vote caps off a lengthy debate the national hockey association has been having.
"We did presentations at our semi-annual meetings. We did presentations with our board a couple of months ago -– really trying to position everybody with a level of comfort knowing that it’s the right move."
After longstanding disagreement over whether to allow hitting among young hockey players, federations in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Quebec have already instituted bans on hitting among their peewee players – most of whom are 11- and 12-years-old.
The issue gained momentum last year after a study showed that the rate of injury was three times higher in Alberta than in Quebec.
According to Hockey Alberta, the study indicated that a ban on checking at the peewee level would prevent 400 concussions and more than 1,000 injuries each year in the province.
Earlier this month, Hockey Alberta eliminated bodychecking in all categories of peewee hockey as part of a ban that takes effect in September.
And on May 12, Nova Scotia became the latest province to ban body checking for peewee players as well as for players in the B and C levels of the bantam and midget leagues (ages 13 through 18).
But not everyone agrees that peewee players should be banned from bodychecking. Some say the practice prepares young players for tougher games at older levels, while others contend learning to do it well can prevent injuries.
According to former Calgary Flames player Theo Fleury, learning how to check effectively was essential to his success in the NHL. "Being small and having had body checking in minor hockey I learned how 2give and take a body check. Hockey is a game of contact, leave it in," he tweeted earlier this month.
But Carson doesn’t buy that argument. In his view, the protective effect of learning to check at a young age is essentially non-existent. Research shows that the risk of injury for players who hit at a younger age is roughly equivalent as the risk for players who bodycheck later in their careers, he explained.
Carson said the focus of the game for young hockey players should be skill development. "The idea behind the game is to play the sport at level where you’re really confident skater, puck carrier, passer-receiver and shooter."
He said Saturday’s vote was not unanimous although an “overwhelming” number of board members were in favour of the ban. According to a re-tweet by the Saskatchewan Hockey Assocation, it was the only organization that cast a "no" vote.
The changes voted on by Hockey Canada in Charlottetown on Saturday are expected to take effect in the 2013-2014 season.