Body Checking in Minor Hockey

By Michael M.

In 2013, Hockey Alberta announced the elimination of “body checking” in the Pee Wee division beginning in the 2013-2014 hockey season (www.hockeyalberta.ca). The move came after the board of directors had established a Body Checking Review Committee the previous year. This committee heavily researched the effects body checking had on Pee Wee aged (11-12 years old) hockey players (www.hockeyalberta.ca). Since the move by Hockey Alberta, other provinces have followed in their footsteps. Most recently, Ontario banning body checking for all midget “A” (the lowest level of midget hockey) players and Quebec doing the same. (www.cbc.ca).

As you probably know, taking body checking out of certain levels of minor hockey is not everyone’s favorable decision. Many parents, players, coaches and experts of the sport believe that eliminating body checking at these levels can actually have worse effects later on. A common theory is that if players do not have experience checking at the Pee Wee age level, when they grow older becoming bigger and stronger they will not know how to properly deliver a check, nor receive one. Although this is only a theory, and can only be studied years after the rule change, it does seem to have some practicality to it.

Surprisingly to myself, I somewhat agree with the rule change however I can see why some people may not like it. Hockey Alberta’s number one priority was the safety towards the players, and since body checking is the number one cause of injury in minor hockey, I understand their logic for this change.“Bodychecking, the most common cause of trauma in hockey, accounts for 86% of all injuries among players 9-15 years old.” (Marchie, A., & Cusimano, M.D, P.1). Even though I am a fan of the physicality hockey can bring it is hard to argue with these facts. Hockey Alberta also ensured that Pee Wee coaches will be required to take a checking skills program and are encouraged to teach safe checking skills in a practice environment (www.hockeyalberta.ca). This would definitely reassure some parents who may be skeptical of their child not learning how to properly check.

On the other hand, should it not be the choice of the parent/child if he/she wants to participate in contact hockey? By a small portion of Minor Hockey players being injured because of body contact, is it ruining it for the other players who are perfectly fine with body checking at any level? No one is forced to put their child in contact hockey. If you feel your child is not safe that should not affect the opportunity of other players to miss out on body checking skill development.

As mentioned above, time will only tell if the rule change will help prevent youth from being injured and not just be denying the inevitable. Until then, regardless of what myself and others might think, I am in full support for the change as it is solely for the protection of youth. Putting my personal beliefs and experiences aside, I, like Hockey Alberta and other Minor Hockey associations want nothing but the best for the players and their development.

Thanks for reading!

References

  1. HOCKEY ALBERTA TO ELIMINATE BODY CHECKING FROM ALL CATEGORIES OF PEEWEE. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015.

2. Marchie, A., & Cusimano, M. D. (2003). Bodychecking and concussions in ice hockey: Should our youth pay the price? Canadian Medical Association.Journal, 169(2), 124-8. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.hil.unb.ca/docview/204976404?accountid=14611

3. News, C. (2015, March 11). Hockey Quebec expands ban on body checking. Retrieved October 27, 2015.

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5 Responses to Body Checking in Minor Hockey

  1. Tristen B. says:

    In my home town, body checking was removed from the Midget House league under the reason that it cause fights. I’m unsure if i agree with that reasoning but it’s similar to your examples above. I think that if in peewee, there was body checking allowed but with strict calls on the illegal hits, then as the players got older, they would know what a legal check is. A few years ago, when I reffed hockey, Hockey Canada made a rule change for minor hockey that all head contact was a penalty, whether on purpose of not, therefore the rules on dirty hits are getting slightly stricter but I think it all starts in the instruction of players.
    Maybe coaches in peewee level should have to take a body checking instruction course before being allowed to coach?

  2. jameshowie6 says:

    I grew up playing contact hockey and I really believe in avoiding injuries and playing the sport safely for fun and physical benefits. There are numerous hits that are from behind that cause neck injuries and lead to fights this is absolutely true. Although when I grew up, we hand hockey clinics with our team where we learned to body check slowly with proper technique so we don’t hurt ourselves or the player were checking. We learned where to make contact, how to, where you shouldn’t hit someone mainly a few feet from the boards so they don’t fall into it awkwardly. We also learned not to skate with your head down, or you would get hit. Injuries still occurred but not at much of a different rate. In pewee and levels it has been removed from the kids aren’t very fast and don’t have much velocity upon contact. They learn to do it properly when they are young develop as hockey players and learn slowly, which with proper coaching leads to clean hits and great hockey players. Now since we have removed checking from those levels of hockey they kids wont learn at a young age and be thrown into it when they are a bit older and faster and stronger skaters who have a year or two advantage will be checking these new players. Ultimately and only logically I think this will end up in injuries and children not wanting to play the game because they can get hurt instead of being proactive and learning to play safe when they were younger. .

  3. I am definitely with you in that I want youth to be safe and healthy while playing sports and that includes the game of Hockey. I personally think that hitting should be a part of hockey for a couple different reasons, one being that it is and always has been a part of the game, and two being that if they learn how to hit and take a hit than there will be less dirty hits leading to injury. I grew up playing hockey and even though I was a goalie I had to take the hitting clinic just as the other players did which I think was a good idea. From what we learned at the clinic we had to take a majority of the hits were clean and the ones that were not were penalized properly by the refs. If they take hitting out of hockey then less people will want to watch, less youth will play, and I think more injuries will happen.

    Andrew H

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a European, I never really got it why ice-hockey needs to be so ‘violent’ (Canadian people seem so nice). Sometimes, I heard, a game would spend half the time on fighting instead of playing the actual game. In my opinion, I would be terrified if they did that to my children. First, because I want them to be safe on the ice. I don’t want them to fear getting bruises and being attacked on the ice. Second, learning the skills without body checking would encourage task-oriented achievement. Focusing on the task rather than on fighting each other, would be more beneficial for skill building. Third, youth under 12 years old are not emotionally, cognitive, and physically ready to participate in body checking. Emotionally, they may be unable to control anger or get really anxious on the ice. Cognitive, they put great emphasis on peer relationships, this may lead to participating in violent behavior if peers show deviant behavior, without them being able to identify it as deviant behavior. Physically, youth around 12 mature at different ages, some will grow and mature earlier than others. Most guys will have their growth spurt between 10-14, and girls between 8-13 years old. This may make it unfair for youth who will have a delayed growth spurt or mature later in other developmental fields. Lastly, I saw this documentary about the Russian hockey team, where there is less emphasis on body checking. These players are as good as the Canadians, it’s just a different type of playing. It depends a lot on the culture, but in my opinion its good for the development of children to step back from body checking until they are ready for it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lisette, V

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