A new di­rec­tion for body check­ing in mi­nor hockey

The Compass - - SPORTS -

Be­gin­ning this hockey sea­son, all mi­nor hockey play­ers aged 11 and 12 par­tic­i­pat­ing within the Pee Wee di­vi­sion in this prov­ince will be pro­hib­ited from body check­ing. This is a na­tional play­ing rule change in­sti­tuted by Hockey Canada this past May, and Hockey NL be­lieves that this is a step in the right di­rec­tion to not only en­hance the safety of the play­ers but also sup­port mem­ber­ship re­ten­tion.

“We be­lieve that some play­ers leave the game early be­cause they don’t want to par­tic­i­pate in a con­tact league” said Arnold Kelly, chair Mi­nor, for Hockey NL. “Our dropout rate last year was 23 per cent and, al­beit more than half of that rate is play­ers grad­u­at­ing, far too many play­ers leave our game at the Pee Wee and Ban­tam di­vi­sions.”

The pro­vin­cial as­so­ci­a­tion is fo­cus­ing on re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion, and with the de­clin­ing youth pop­u­la­tion and player lim­i­ta­tions in ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador, pos­i­tive safety rules and player en­joy­ment is para­mount for the suc­cess of the as­so­ci­a­tion. The elim­i­na­tion of body check­ing at the Pee Wee age is the first step in this area Kelly states, “We are now tak­ing a se­ri­ous re­view of all of our mi­nor hockey re­cre­ational lev­els and de­ter­min­ing whether body check­ing has a place in that game as well.”

The branch is de­liv­er­ing ef­fi­cient and de­tailed coach ed­u­ca­tion on the in­tro­duc­tion to check­ing to their mem­ber­ship this sea­son and ex­pects that a manda­tory pro­gram for coaches will be ef­fec­tive in the near fu­ture, which will in­clude both online and on ice ed­u­ca­tion. The branch will con­tinue to de­liver this four step pro­gres­sion skill de­vel­op­ment to coaches and play­ers, with the in­tent that the fourth step in the skill, body check­ing, will be ap­plied to the higher age and cate- gories.

Al­though Hockey NL is con­cen­trat­ing on build­ing the non-com­pet­i­tive com­po­nent of their as­so­ci­a­tion to en­sure they keep play­ers in the game and struc­ture fun com­pe­ti­tion, they are also ini­ti­at­ing a sig­nif­i­cant change to their com­pet­i­tive pro­grams be­gin­ning in the 2014-2015 sea­son. Be­gin­ning next sea­son they will be es­tab­lish­ing a pro­vin­cial league at the Pee Wee and Ban­tam AAA cat­e­gory in the prov­ince. This is still in the in­fancy stages, but the struc­ture will be sim­i­lar to the Ma­jor Midget league, where play­ers at the com­pet­i­tive level play on pos­si­bly six re­gional-based teams with up­wards of a 30-game sea­son. Far too many play­ers are leav­ing the prov­ince to join acad­e­mies and other prepara­tory schools in other prov­inces for more com­pe­ti­tion and skill de­vel­op­ment. Hockey NL be­lieves this move will keep play­ers in the prov­ince, and pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment where they can fur­ther de­velop their at­tributes re­quired to play at an elite level.

For more in­for­ma­tion on body check­ing, AAA pro­grams or other ar­eas of hockey in the prov­ince, please visit Hockey NL’s web­site at www.hock­eynl.ca

Arnold Kelly, chair, Mi­nor Hockey.

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