With Alberta on board, Hockey Canada is planning to introduce documents and medical data to spearhead discussions for a nationwide ban on bodychecking at the peewee level.
The issue of player safety and hitting among 11- and 12-year-olds will be presented to Hockey Canada’s board of directors at this month’s annual general meeting in Charlottetown.
Paul Carson, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey development, will make a formal presentation outlining the risks and effects of young players being allowed to bodycheck one another at a pivotal stage in their development.
Included in the presentation will be much of the information Hockey Alberta used to announce Wednesday it was banning bodychecking among peewees beginning this fall.
Hockey officials in the
province took note of a five-
year University of Calgary study that showed Alberta peewee players were at three times the risk of being injured, and four times the risk of suffering a concussion, than peewees in Quebec, where hitting wasn’t allowed.
The study also showed concussion symptoms usually go away in seven to 10 days in 80 per cent of cases, but for some patients the effects can last for weeks, even years.
Hockey Alberta’s decision puts it in line with Quebec and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, which has taken bodychecking out of its house-league programs at all levels. British Columbia has removed bodychecking in various recreation leagues.
Carson, who helped Hockey Alberta formulate its ban, will also rely on the opinions of an advisory group consisting of psychology and kinesiology experts when he outlines his talk to Hockey Canada’s 31 voting directors.
“We did have a preliminary discussion with the board during the women’s world championship in Ottawa [last month],” Carson said. “We had an opportunity to present a number of issues. Bodychecking was one. There’ll be no surprises at the AGM.”
Hockey Alberta also announced the creation of a “player safety strategy to focus on the reduction of serious injuries in the game at all levels.”
The moves were applauded.
Alberta Liberal health critic Dr. David Swann issued a statement saying: “By banning bodychecking for players under 13, we can prevent at least 1,500 injuries, including 400 concussions, which can be devastating for our young people. … This decision also has the potential to save Alberta more than $210,000 a year in direct public health-care costs.”
Calgary peewee coach Mark Howell, who also coaches the University of Calgary men’s hockey team, supported the bodychecking ban, insisting peewee players should concentrate on developing their skills without worrying about being hit.
“We need to introduce checking, but not body contact,” Howell said. “We can teach stick positioning, proper angling, rubbing a player off without bodychecking him. We need to give the kids time to learn the fine motor skills to play the game at high speeds. The longer we give them, the more equipped they’ll be to move forward when bodychecking is allowed.”
Hockey Canada is looking to make the game safer to better recruit and retain its minor-hockey membership numbers.
More than 8,000 children dropped out of the sport this season compared to the year before. Many parents are concerned about the sport’s dangers and potential for injury.