A new direction for body checking in minor hockey
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.