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Deflections: Is The Peewee Body Checking Debate Resolved?

Be it resolved that 2013’s most overrated and least productive hockey debate was about hitting.

No, “check” that. Hitting is in baseball; checking is in hockey, which includes, but is not limited to, body-checking. Hitting versus checking isn’t just semantics. It is a significant difference in connotation. 

So, resolution rewritten: 2013’s most...blah...blah...debate was about checking. Arguing in favour of the resolution is the writer. 

Ladies and gentlemen, in 2013, minor hockey emotions spilled over about an issue that wasn’t really one. Hockey Canada pushed body checking up to bantam. Across this land we felt the reverberations as nearly everyone with an opinion - which, in Canada, is everyone plus one - had something to say about it. At least no one stormed Hockey Canada’s Calgary headquarters armed with hockey stick pickets.

It was a non-issue for a few reasons, the most important being that the health of our children’s noggins shouldn’t have raised a peep. The evidence was overwhelming; body checking hurts young kids.

Didn’t it hurt us 20, 30, or 40 years ago? It did, but we dumbed it out. As in, we thought we were tougher because getting clocked and being dizzy for three days was part of the game. 

Today’s kids are bigger, stronger, faster. The equipment is rock hard, on which point Mister Cherry is correct. Even the ice is faster as ice-making has nearly become a science. 

What hasn’t worked, and is a contributing reason to the hue and cry against the body checking rule change, is that nearly everyone skips steps. Who is first teaching skating balance, stick checks, angling, and then body contact as espoused by Hockey Canada in both its manuals and videos? This has been the PR black hole. It’s not a new concept either. Back in the 80s, yours truly sat on a national committee led by a very bright fellow from Alberta had written an outline of a progression on the steps needed to teach body checking. Nearly 30 years later, those steps haven’t changed.

The question shouldn’t be why not have body checking at younger ages. It should be: are coaches teaching the necessary progressions over a four- to six-year span? Can eight-year-olds learn proper balance and stick checks? Of course they can. They won’t be particularly adept at it. But then, how many eight-year-olds can play a Billy Joel hit without first learning Chopsticks?

The same goes for angling. Coaches need to teach kids from the youngest ages to develop the thinking skills in order to channel opponents into disadvantageous positions. They won’t be very good at that either at first. Why? Because they’re kids. They’re not supposed to be good at a lot of things for a while yet. 

The body checking PR machine could use an oil and lube job to make coaches and parents understand progressions, the same kinds of progressions they see in the classroom.

Now arguing against the resolution...

 

Tags: minor hockey

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