Education is key to checking debate
Undoubtedly, water cooler talk over the last couple of weeks has centred on Hockey Canada’s decision to remove body contact from peewee divisions across the country.
For those who don’t know, peewee hockey is comprised of players 11 and 12 years-of-age.
It’s been a decision that has been heavily scrutinized from coast-to-coast. Essentially, some are for it and some are against it.
Those who approve of the decision cite the inherit safety reasons as argument enough to remove it, while others worry children will not be prepared for contact when they make the move to bantam hockey.
Hockey NL officially brought it in at its annual general meeting in Gander on June 7-9, and because of that I’d thought I’d give it a shot.
While I recognize that there are merits to both sides of the argument, I am ultimately on the fence. Now, hear me out. I choose to not pick a side because I think the information on both sides is compelling enough that it forces people to be on the fence.
Who can argue with the safety of the players?
If Hockey Canada statistics say some 400 concussions would be prevented by removing contact, then who are we to say leaving it in is the right call.
If players are leaving the game because they’ve been hurt or suffered a concussion, then what’s the point of arguing?
We should want more players to pick up the unofficial national sport, rather than having more leave it.
It is only within the last 15 years that checking has been placed in the peewee division, so it’s not like Hockey Canada is reinventing the wheel here. There have been complete generations of kids who grew up not hitting until the bantam level.
But, it is a part of the game. That’s why I think it might not have been the right decision to remove it. I know, at this point in the game’s history, there has been more attention paid to concussions and head injuries, and that has probably triggered this response.
Lets face it, there is still going to be as many bigger kids crunching smaller kids in bantam as there has been in peewee. How can that change? The simple answer to the question how will the players develop the right skills is education in this peewee year, and all of them to come.
I’d be willing to bet that some coaches teaching the game have lost sight of the actual point of a hit. Despite what sports stations would tell you — where the big hit is king — the point of a body check is to separate man from puck. Does the big hit work? Sure it does. In some cases, at least.
Just look at Niklas Lidstrom. I’d place him in the top-5 all-time blueliners to play the game. Now think about how many big hits he threw. It’s not because he was afraid to hit or couldn’t take a hit, it’s because he hit the smart way.
You have to start teaching players that it might be better to rub someone out along the boards rather than try and put him through them.
It’s possible if there was more emphasis put on education, then we might not be having this conversation.
— Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He can be reached at email@example.com
Bay Roberts recreation director Ian Flynn is shown here at the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex in Bay Roberts. It will be the site for the summer program when the town rolls out its new format this summer.