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Should Bodychecking Be Banned In Youth Hockey?

from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,

USA Hockey is considering a proposal that would make bodychecking illegal for all players under 13, an initiative sure to ignite the growing debate over the proper time to introduce contact at the grassroots level.

The proposed measure was raised at USA Hockey’s annual winter meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., and according to the association’s senior director of hockey development, Kevin McLaughlin, it was not designed primarily to address safety issues.

“It is a skill development initiative first,” said McLaughlin, who explained that his organization’s research found that bodychecking at the peewee level was significantly distracting players from improving their skills at a critical time in their development. Too often, he said, players of that age were either too focused on hitting or trying to avoid a hit.

continued

Filed in: Non-NHL Hockey, Youth Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: usa+hockey

Comments

Primis's avatar

I don’t know.  There is some serious merit to the idea that choosing an arbitrary age for kids to begin contact is asking for trouble.

Basically, you’re telling a 13 year-old whose hormones are often out of control and doesn’t exactly have the best control of their own body yet that they can suddenly start hitting other kids, and the result is messy slugfests on the ice with bodies everywhere.  Maybe if they’ve had some sort of contact all along, they wouldn’t go nuts once they’re finally at an age they can do so (and can do some damage).  What if they’d been hitting since 7 instead?

I understand that kids under the age of 12 have a prime time to learn everything else and you want to maximize that, but…

The article also notes that Quebec is the only Canadian province where body-checking is banned at PeeWee.  The problem with citing that is… Quebec hasn’t been churning out great players lately either.  Is that a coincidence, or related?

At any rate, I’m not a fan of a kid turning 13 when his body is rapidly changing and often growing, and suddenly telling him “Hey, go out there are try to decapitate somoene like you’ve waited to for years”.  Seems like a bad, bad plan all-around…

Posted by Primis on 02/02/11 at 12:49 AM ET

inferno31's avatar

Agreed Primis.
The other issue with this is I can see how this makes it much more dangerous for certain players. Imagine you’ve never played contact before and you have to play a team from another province or state that plays contact. The result is you don’t know how to brace yourself, or take the contact, you don’t know the safe play. The result is going to be injuries to young players.
As odd as it sounds the earlier you introduce contact, the earlier the kids understand what to do and how to safely take and give body checks. Keep contact, but be strict in enforcing penalties and rules. Teach them to be responsible at an early age.

Posted by inferno31 on 02/02/11 at 01:23 AM ET

Sadie's avatar

Anyone know what’s typical in Europe, out of curiosity?

Posted by Sadie from Ann Arbor, MI on 02/02/11 at 03:02 AM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Sure…and maybe while we’re at it we can take tackling out of junior high football, too.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 02/02/11 at 10:37 AM ET

WingMan's avatar

Just an FYI that in Quebec they do not allow checking until first year Bantam (most kids are 13 by then).  It is interesting, because for us all other kids in North America start in Pee-Wee (11 years old) and once we hit Bantam you can really see a difference in how the kids play.  The Quebec kids are at a disadvantage because they are new to checking are not sure of timing, angles, etc and usually end up running around for the first part of the season…  I believe introducing checking at earlier ages is safer because there are not too many big kids and if two 50 lb kids hit it’s not so bad, but when the 5’10” 145 lb 13 year old hits the 5’3” 90 lb 13 year old then there are consequences!  It is a great debate…  interested to see how this turn out, because there is a big push in certain parts of Quebec to introduce checking at 11 (first year Pee-Wee).  Personally, I started checking in Atom - never forgot that first hit I took… lol kept my head up after that, and no harm done other than to my ego wink

Posted by WingMan from The Q C on 02/02/11 at 10:44 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

As odd as it sounds the earlier you introduce contact, the earlier the kids understand what to do and how to safely take and give body checks. Keep contact, but be strict in enforcing penalties and rules. Teach them to be responsible at an early age.

Tough question, but I think I agree with this take. Especially in regards to calling penalties. Call a lot of roughing/boarding/charging/crosschecking/elbowing, even on some plays that would go unnoticed in higher levels. Make sure the objective of the hit is to separate the puck from the player, not to smear em into the boards.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 02/02/11 at 02:14 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

bodychecking at the peewee level was significantly distracting players from improving their skills at a critical time in their development

this is sensible.  I believe in Russia they don’t give the kids a puck until they’re a certain age.  and look at how they turn out as far as skating skill.

Basically, you’re telling a 13 year-old whose hormones are often out of control and doesn’t exactly have the best control of their own body yet that they can suddenly start hitting other kids, and the result is messy slugfests on the ice with bodies everywhere.

I disagree completely.  following this logic we should be encouraging young children to have sex, smoke, drink and all other manner of “adult” activities…so that they aren’t just all of a sudden bombarded with it when they get older.

also, I believe that if the focus is on puck control, stick handling, shooting, and skating then even when they are finally allowed to check they won’t do it as much as they would have otherwise…because they’ll have a high level of skill.  why would they go for a body check when they can steal the puck and go the other way for a scoring chance based on their other skills?

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 02/02/11 at 02:31 PM ET

Avatar

I disagree completely.  following this logic we should be encouraging young children to have sex, smoke, drink and all other manner of “adult” activities…so that they aren’t just all of a sudden bombarded with it when they get older.

Really? The US is the developed country that’s most likely to ban condoms from schools and endorse abstinence only sex education, and the US is also, far and away, the developed country with the highest rates of teen pregnancy and abortion.

If you want kids to act sensibly about something, the way to go is to have them around it and to teach them about it from earlier ages.

Posted by dzuunmod on 02/02/11 at 03:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Body-checking in hockey is not an “adult” activity, it’s a part of the game.  What you’re talking about is akin to refusing to give seven-year olds forks because there’s too much of a chance they’ll hurt themselves or others with them.

If there are too many kids that are too distracted by learning how to hit rather than developing their skills, then there are too many coaches doing a shitty job teaching the game of hockey to youths in the United States.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/02/11 at 03:31 PM ET

Primis's avatar

JJ, it’s not as simple as blaming the coaches though.

They’re kids.  You can bark at them all day… but now that they can hit they’ll go for the hit rather than another (smarter) play, because they *can* and it’s legal.  You can sit them, you can bag skate them.  You can do it all, but until they learn by first-hand experience when and when not to check, they’re going to try it in all sorts of crazy situations because there’s nothing mentally to stop them.

Kids aren’t just completely stupid, but they have no previous experience to go back on to tell them “Hey, if I miss that check, that guy goes in and scores”.  They just see the opportunity and “JACKED UP!” screams inside their heads.

If you let younger kids get that experience out of the way earlier, when they’re less strong, smaller, and less likely to hurt one another, you get less of that. when they are bigger, older, and can legitimately hurt one another.

Posted by Primis on 02/02/11 at 04:14 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I agree with you Primis.

The point I was trying to make was that the coaches need to do a better job of teaching them, that if hitting is hurting their development, the coaches are doing a bad job.  What you just laid out is an example of hitting helping their development because they also learn when to hit. 

Canada still develops more of the best players in the world than any other nation and their kids hit (except in the aforementioned Quebec).  It’s obviously not hitting that’s keeping the American Youths from developing, but the people under whom they develop.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/02/11 at 04:22 PM ET

Avatar

It’s obviously not hitting that’s keeping the American Youths from developing, but the people under whom they develop.

But to be fair, US hockey development has made tremendous strides in recent years. It wasn’t that long ago that the Americans were usually also-rans at the WJHC, and now they’re contenders pretty much every year and 11 first-rounders in last year’s draft were Americans. You can’t argue with results like those.

USA Hockey is on the right track.

Posted by dzuunmod on 02/02/11 at 04:26 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

USA Hockey is on the right track.

Posted by dzuunmod on 02/02/11 at 01:26 PM ET

I agree.  I just think that staying on the right track involves not making wide-sweeping and unnecessary changes that will limit their development of total hockey skills.

Hitting, being hit, and avoiding being hit are all skills that are important.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/02/11 at 04:37 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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