The way the game is played at lower levels in Ontario will officially change with a new mandate in place.
Skill development will be on the forefront with smaller ice, lighter pucks and “station-based practices” as the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) looks to bring changes across the province.
Earlier this year, Hockey Canada introduced new cross-ice hockey guidelines to begin next year for young hockey players, but Ontario is taking things a little further.
Working with the Ontario Hockey Federation, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) is focusing more on “age-appropriate programming”.
In 2018, Initiation players (ages five and six) will play from sideboard to sideboard from the blueline down. Tyke (age seven) will get the chance to spread out more, playing half ice with one net in the normal crease, and the other at the bottom of the centre faceoff circle. Novice (age eight) will stick to full ice, but in 2019-20, they will start the season with half-ice play before transitioning and finishing at full ice, allowing them to be up to speed for their next year.
In the website release, OHF president Tony Foresi said the organization understands how significant these changes can be for player development.
“To be leaders in the game, we have to look beyond today and realize the significance of supporting age-appropriate programming. The science is there, the results are there and now we are moving the game there.”
OMHA’s executive director Ian Taylor, said in the press release the increased action will give more opportunity for players.
“Scaling the game to match the age group allows young players the opportunity for more puck-touches which promotes greater opportunity for skill-development in puck-handling, shooting, skating, coordination and decision-making,” Taylor said.
This allows plenty of time for member clubs to anticipate the change and work towards it for next season. With Ontario supporting this fully, it’s a great sign of the heartbeat of hockey in the country focusing on producing better players.
Other countries have had skill-based practices and smaller surfaces with great results, and it was only a matter of time before Canada caught up.
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