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Time To Reduce Body-Checking From The Game

from Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post,

Authors of a new article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggest a commitment to reducing aggressive body contact in hockey — such as adopting rules to limit bodychecking — would lead to a reduction in injuries on the ice. The lead author, Dr. Michael Cusimano, from the Division of Neurosurgery and the Injury Prevention Research Office, St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, offers an analogy.

“If we had a pill, and we said we could cut down the number of concussions, or the number of instances of this brain sickness or this arm sickness called a fracture — if we could cut that down by tenfold, if you were a parent, you would want to get that for your kid,” he said. “So we know, right now, with these rule changes, that we could do that. But the culture is such that we’re not doing it, so there are kids getting hurt needlessly, when we know what we need to do to diminish [the risk].”

The article is a review of 18 studies, including several well-known works, with most of the focus on youth hockey. Eleven of those studies showed injuries and penalties were reduced after rules were changed. You can read the full article here, and read a partial transcript of the National Post’s interview with Dr. Cusimano (MC) below.

continued

Filed in: NHL Talk, Non-NHL Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

Hank1974's avatar

As far as minor hockey is concerned there should be no body contact in any house-league division and I don’t think there should be any hitting until Bantam travel.

For the NHL, if you put the players in equipment from 1980, you wouldn’t have any more problems.
If idiots like Dan Carcillo wanted to throw hits like he does, his shoulder’s would be wrecked after one game.

The equipment today is more weapon than protection anymore.

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/03/12 at 12:56 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

agreed.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/03/12 at 03:00 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/03/12 at 12:56 PM ET

Exactly.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/03/12 at 03:04 PM ET

Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit's avatar

The equipment today is more weapon than protection anymore.

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/03/12 at 12:56 PM ET

Sad but true. The much maligned Don Cherry has been an advocate for changes to the equipment as far back as 1999.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 12/03/12 at 03:23 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/03/12 at 12:56 PM ET

I agree on equipment, disagree on contact play.
1) To treat the house kids any different from travel leagues would be doing those kids an injustice. There is a mix of kids that either can’t afford travel, don’t want to play travel, or are not quite good enough for travel playing in house leagues. Then to tell those kids they can’t play the full game of hockey is not doing them any good. Many of the house kids are looking to play for their HS teams, (those ranks seem to get filled by mostly house and a scattering of travel bred players) and if they aren’t learning the checking game before they get there, they will be in trouble; and so will the HS teams be as they try to fill the bench.
2) It remains to be seen, but I think that raising the checking age is creating a more dangerous situation. Checking should begin at peewee. That is an age in which the kids are still growing. It gives them an opportunity to learn their limits while they still have respect. They aren’t running around with mens bodies and kids minds. By checking early, the kids learn the right way to play before they become dangerous due the size and speed they gain with maturity. Learning at the later age they will become more likely to injure themselves or the target due poor technique in conjunction with size and speed.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 12/03/12 at 03:45 PM ET

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I have very mixed feelings about this, how do you teach a kid the proper way to check and receive a check without contact? And the first thing you have to realize, is that there is no such thing as no-contact ice hockey. It can’t be done. Even at peewee level these kids collide with each other and rack there little heads on the ice because they lack coordination and control. Maybe start the peewees in games where they have a small edge around the rink to keep the puck in play, but they don’t play all the way to the boards. The boards, after the ice itself, have to be the most dangerous element out there.

What do you do with a 15 year old that starts to play his first season of contact hockey when the 16 year old next to him has had a year more experience and is that more physically mature? Make the suspensions immediate and severe for any hit on a player that is prone (whether their fault or not since we aren’t talking pros) and make it a penalty to hit a player that is not in full possession of the puck so that these 30 foot runs and late hits are eliminated.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 12/03/12 at 04:22 PM ET

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For good or ill, Carcillo hits with his forearms, driving them through the target. If the target’s chest is at forearm level, that’s a good thing, because, since he drives through the target instead of up, the target’s unlikely to be hurt, even if he gets steamrolled. Where Carcillo runs into problems is he finishes his checks in the exact same way straight into the opponent’s numbers or, if the guy’s leaning, into his face. His technique is about as honest as you can get—-if and only if the other guy’s body is in the proper position. If it’s not, Carcillo seems to think it’s the other guy’s problem, not his, which is a mentality that will continue to get him into trouble until someone beats some sense into his thick skull or he loses enough cash through fines and garnishes that he is forced to rethink this.

Either way, changing shoulder pads wouldn’t impact Carcillo, specifically,  one bit, because he does not normally throw shoulder checks. And even if he did, which he doesn’t, Carcillo’s never been one to put self-preservation high on his list of priorities.

There’s a better guy you could have used to make your point, by the way. My guess is you knew that, but reached for Carcillo instead, despite the point not applying, because it’s easier to label as the “problem” a fringe player who looks like a drug addict, even if he’s not guilty of the thing you’re talking about, than it is to take a look at one of your own.

Posted by larry on 12/03/12 at 04:45 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

SnLO and hockey1919, with all due respect I can’t disagree more about some of your statements.
The kids that really care about checking make up only a small fraction of the players out there.
Case in point, a town close to mine recently banned all contact for every house-league division, from Pee-wee up to Midget. Guess what happened? Their registrations DOUBLED.
They are the only town in the entire southwest region of my province that has more than 1 HS league in the age groups beyond 12 years old.
Before they made that rule change, they didn’t have ONE house-league Midget team. Now they have 4.

A great majority of kids at that age just want to play rec hockey. They want to get together with friends, slap a puck around in a ‘real’ setting without having to worry about getting their heads kicked in.
I think it’s ridiculous that some kids feel obliged to quite at 13 years old and have to wait 7 years in order to join a non-contact beer league.

The other thing I constantly hear is ‘teach the kids how to properly hit and receive hits’.
Do any of you have kids? Have you ever seen an 11-year old who’s built like a 15-year old show any kind of restraint or responsibility when it comes to exerting physical force?
They go from watching HNIC where half of the highlights during the intro feature life-threatening body checks, or maybe they watch Rock Em Sock Em 56 that highlights even more destruction on ice, and suddenly that young man is supposed to show restraint?
I know grown men who can’t do that, let alone an 11, 12, or 16 year old kid.
And some of these kids are HUGE. Puck Daddy recently featured a story about a 12 year old that was 6’5” and 200 lbs.  It’s downright dangerous to have a kid that size on the ice with other kids who are actually the size of an 11 year old.

And don’t even think about asking the refs to keep order. Most of them are 14 year old kids themselves and the last thing they want to do is anger some drunken loser of a father that NEEDS to experience life through his kids eyes.
Just last weekend, I heard a mother screaming at a ref, who had just given her 10-year old son a penalty for hitting from behind (the 4th time he did it that game), that “If he didn’t kill anyone, it’s not a penalty!”. And later when someone spoke to her she said “That’s hockey! Punching, fighting, hitting. If you don’t like it, go play basketball!”. That made me sick to hear.

I can go on and on about this subject. (sorry, haha).

I’m not sure if you have any kids playing, but I’ve seen it all. And I’m telling you, hitting at that young of an age is not good for anyone.
Medical experts have proven that concussions go way up at the Atom level.
Why do we continue to ignore that as if we know better than a medical professional?
And why do we feel that the ‘integrity of the game” is more important than an 11-year old’s physical well being?

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/04/12 at 07:01 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/04/12 at 07:01 AM ET

The kids that really care about checking make up only a small fraction of the players out there.

Depends. That was not the case for most of the kids I was around. In fact it was the opposite of your conjecture. We had a couple of kids that were intimidated. One kid quit for a year before returning and the other continued to play despite his reservations. But that was just our team, and the boys were a pretty close group.

a town close to mine recently banned all contact for every house-league division, from Pee-wee up to Midget. Guess what happened? Their registrations DOUBLED.

I’m not saying this is good or bad, but I will say that each community is different and that maybe a broad brush for everybody won’t work. So in this town they did what works for them and that is a great thing.
The mandate shouldn’t have to be legislated from a higher body that doesn’t know what is best for my community. In the end, it’s good there is a place for all those kids to play. I think there is a place for all three programs: rec, house and travel.

kids at that age just want to play rec hockey. They want to get together with friends, slap a puck around in a ‘real’ setting without having to worry about getting their heads kicked in.

I think that’s true of all ages. There is always that head hunter out there looking for someone with their head down. Once the kids get past the initial intimidation of playing checking hockey, they end up enjoying it up until the point of dealing with the head hunter.

have to wait 7 years in order to join a non-contact beer league.

Yes I agree. And its just as bad for women. My daughter hit that gap of five years between having a league to play in due there being no program from thirteen (girls) to eighteen (women). Prior to bantam she could play in the instructional co-ed league with nothing else being available until she turned eighteen and could join the women’s league.

Do any of you have kids? Have you ever seen an 11-year old who’s built like a 15-year old show any kind of restraint or responsibility when it comes to exerting physical force?

Yes. It’s funny you bring this kid up because we had exactly that: 11 yr-old in a 15 yr-old body. but he was the biggest teddy bear too. We were constantly on him to use his body and be more physical on the play. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t teaching him to hospitalize kids, we were working to convert him from a pylon. it was funny though, he was like a Chara out there towering over all the kids, but not an aggressive bone in his body. By the end of the year we had him putting hips on guys, digging pucks out the corner and clearing the front of the net; and he never hurt anybody. I think we taught him the “right way to play’

And don’t even think about asking the refs to keep order. Most of them are 14 year old kids themselves

True-ish. In MI the ref association is doing good things to develop refs. They are pairing young refs with experienced refs which is giving the young refs support. I saw a 14 yr-old house ref eject a mother from the arena during a match. There is hope. And that brings up another point, you’re correct, it’s the mom’s that are worse than the dad’s.

I’m not sure if you have any kids playing, but I’ve seen it all. And I’m telling you, hitting at that young of an age is not good for anyone.

I had kids playing up until this year, close to ten years; I’ve been on the bench for just over half that (mostly house, some tvl); and my boy spent a season having a go at officiating. Seems we’ve seen a lot of the same things: it becomes what we take away from what we’ve seen, how we process it and how we deal with it. I was involved so I could make an immediate impact on what was happening (I’m not saying you aren’t, I don’t know) and I feel good about the resulting impact on the kids I was around. I liked coaching kids and teaching them the game and the right way to play. I saw coaches that coached to win and others that send kids out to hurt our best player. You make valid points on valid issues. But I don’t think that due the few bad apples, the whole system needs re-vamping across the board.  It’s really up to the people involved, the local hockey community and governing bodies to decide what kind of programs they want to run and which people they want involved.

Good conversation. Thanks.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 12/04/12 at 09:56 AM ET

Hank1974's avatar

SnLO, thank’s for that great retort.
After I submitted my response to you and hockey1919, I realized I sounded way too holier-than-thou (which I do quite often because I’m a douche), and I cringed.
That wasn’t my intention and I apologize to you and hockey1919 if I came across as a dink.

I guess I’m just very passionate about this topic because I see Hockey Canada’s stats showing that 50% of kids drop out once they hit Peewee (age of contact for most organizations).

I just wish there was a separate league for kids that don’t have any interest in contact hockey.
I know in some areas/provinces they have something called “Pond Hockey” where there’s no formal rules. The kids toss their sticks in a pile, make teams and play.
No offsides, no icing, no coaching, no positions and no contact whatsoever. It’s really gaining popularity in some towns.

I know my son would still be playing if he had that option.

Some kids enjoy the physical aspect of the sport and there’s nothing wrong with it.
I just cringe when I think of small kids getting crunched or concussed.
I know a dad that had a 7 year old who sustained 3 concussions in 18 months and still saw no problems putting him back on the ice.
That’s why I think some parents need to be saved from themselves.

Anyway, great conversation! Cheers!

Posted by Hank1974 on 12/04/12 at 10:04 AM ET

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Hank1974, I think you either misunderstood or misrepresented what I stated. Kids at the mite level are more at risk from falling in scrums and banging their heads on the ice and into the boards than checking. They don’t “check” at that age, they collide. I suggested moving the play away from the boards and the cross ice games also ensure less plays where scrums can develop and kids can fall into the boards reducing injury. I see more parents allowing kids to skate helmetless during free skate where the rink “guards” a whizzing thorugh them at full speed which is more dangerous than kids in pads.

As for moving up in ages, there need to be weight classes as much as age classes. When you have a fifteen year old that is a man playing against a fifteen year old barely reaching puberty you are going to have problems. It doesn’t matter if checking is allowed or not when you have someone 50lbs heavier going for the same puck in the corner. The collision is going to happen and like a truck facing a miata we now the results. Banning checking will reduce the number of collisions for sure and that will help, but the catastrophic problems will remain. I made this point in my first post. At some point kids are going to collide and you don’t want to through lambs in with the lions.

don’t even think about asking the refs to keep order. Most of them are 14 year old kids themselves

So what would new rules do if you admit they can’t be enforced? Just make it illegal to be concussed and be done with it. Instead of using cheap underaged labor, how about some adult supervision out their instead?  Rules without enforcement are meaningless. I complain often that the worst refs are used at the lowest levels. The kids that need to learn the most have the least guidance, and it makes no sense whatsoever, but it is a misplaced priority on competition at early ages than skill development. Why not have an adult and a 14 year old teamed up with the senior ref acting as the lead official and the 14 year old as the linesman and watching behind the play?

I teach my kids to be aware at all times, period, not just in hockey, but in other sports too. That is all about being ready to take a hit, a ball to the chest, a kick to the head, even when not legal because it can and will happen. I fear the kids, that though they have no ill intentions, are out of control the most becasue they have no understanding of what they are doing. They can barely stop, but they can pick up alot of speed, does pretending they aren’t allowed to check someone going to stop it from happening? Not a chance. Making it non-contact doesn’t mean you still can’t teach kids positioning and how to handle being hit.

That’s hockey! Punching, fighting, hitting. If you don’t like it, go play basketball!”.

You can’t legislate away stupid people. These same parents will have their kids going full speed and drill someone regardless of the rules and then argue how what they did was legal and you are picking on their future NHL superstar. They then turn into the 40-year old beer leaguers that will hit you from behind in a non-checking league when down by 5 goals to make a point. The point being at 40 you should be more worried about your mortgage then being an a-hole in a meaningless game. They’ve never been on the receiving end of a back breaking check because the rules have protected them as they continually break them. Kick them out and suspend them or they won’t learn. As a matter of fact, they probably won’t learn and all the more reason to keep them off the ice.

There is still a smaller minority of players that will go on to play at a higher level where full contact is expected. As adults do we abdicate our responsibility to teach them the proper way to check and receive checks until they are old enough to figure it out on their own? Would sex ed start sophomore year in college too?

 

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 12/04/12 at 10:05 AM ET

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Looks like our posts crossed in the ether-webs. I always knew you were a douche, but that’s what I like about you wink.

The pond hockey approach is something I’ve advocated even in rec leagues. Have “teams” show up to ensure there are 30 kids and not 5 or 80 and then mix them up. This removes the coaches ego since the kids he “coached” up the past week is randomly going to wind up on the team he is playing against for the week.  This won’t work for travel teams that are supposed to be more competitive, but allow for hockey and all sports to be enjoyed by the kids more than the coaches.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 12/04/12 at 10:23 AM ET

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