Ed­u­ca­tion is key to check­ing de­bate

The Compass - - SPORTS -

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 nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Nicholas Mercer/the Com­pass

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.

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