The axiom says, “Everything is easy before it becomes hard.”
Any coach will agree that when you teach something new, players may find it challenging, even hard. Once they get the hang of it though, hard becomes easy and a new hard develops, as in can they do it at game speed or under greater resistance.
The same will hold true for Hockey Canada mandating cross ice in IP next season and likely novice the one after. In the beginning, associations will scramble to figure out how to make this work. You see, full ice has been easy. Regulation nets and puck are easy. Rules are easy because the rule book is the same for everyone. How to configure the ice for just two teams of standard size has been straightforward, too.
With the mandate, however, comes a raft of more considerations which will make everything harder. Well, they’re considerations for some. For those who truly understand children’s growth and needs, they’re a must.
The rink: We’ll now need to schedule for multiple groups on the ice, perhaps as many as six. Should there be other lines painted on the cross ice rinks? How many? Why? What colour? School gymnasia have had multi-coloured lines for various sports for generations. No one’s complained and it seems to have worked. This will be hard because it will take research, discussion, agreement and planning. For many hockey associations, that may be a new experience.
What about separators for the smaller rinks? A two-blueline set could cost $4-5k, not chump change for most places. Where will the dough come from? Are there creative and cheap alternatives? Anyone willing to share those thoughts?
The nets: They need to be smaller which means buying or constructing new ones. And where to store them? Can six small nets be stacked?
The puck: For some odd reason, this is a contentious point. What is the logical developmental rationale for having kids under 10, for instance, using the same puck as the pros? No other sport does this. Whether it should be slightly lighter or just smaller and lighter is another issue. We already have the 4 oz puck in IP. Why not have a graduated system so that the novice and atom kids have a 5 oz puck, or some such?
The scoreboard: There’s just one, but there could be three games at the same time. What to do about it? Numbered flip charts as in cross court basketball? Do we need an official score at all? Why?
Rules and officials: What should be changed? Should a seven-year-old sit out an infraction? What constitutes an infraction anyway? Offsides? Icing - in cross ice? Do we need referees? How many?
How many registered kids on a team? With more kids on the ice at one time, are the dressing rooms adequate?
It was easy to mandate cross ice for novice (when it becomes official). Making it work will be hard.
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