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From the Press Box: The debate continues

One of the mandates we at HockeyNow committed to last year was to create a cover story in every issue that was informative, engaging, compelling and delivered both sides to each story. Well, our October cover story “A Hit or Miss?”, a look back one year after the body checking rule change across Canada, was definitely the number one cover story in terms of reader reaction. I don’t usually reprint a response on this page, but the following was so well thought out I couldn’t leave it unread. One caveat though—I don’t want anyone to think this is my opinion, I just wanted to share this side. Thanks for all your responses on Twitter, Facebook and via email.

I read your A Hit or Miss? Article published in the October edition of HockeyNow and I really appreciated how you tried to represent both sides of the issue.

I believe that the voting process is skewed toward non-competitive recreational playing given the largest percentage of a hockey association’s membership is in the Peewee division and younger, with 90% of players not being considered for Bantam AA level hockey or higher. The 10% of players who will have this opportunity is small and they are the primary players who are affected by the removal of Body Checking.

I further believe that once a player passes through the peewee years, that parents will supplement where community hockey falls short in an effort to provide their players with as much exposure to Body Checking training as possible and feedback about the rule change will not be forthcoming.

If you were born in 2001, you received 1 year of Body Contact in your first year of Peewee before the rule change. The real test will be with the 2002 birth year group which will graduate to Bantam next year which have had no exposure to Body Contact in community hockey.

I believe that there is always an opportunity to find a “Win/Win” solution in every situation and feel that not enough consideration has been given to alternative ideas for protecting our game and its players. Right now “No Body Contact” is winning the debate by a considerable margin and the people who are for it are being forced to seek private training away from the governance of Hockey Canada and their local association.

I met with Paul Carson back in October of 2013 to outline a phase in model that I believe would satisfy the majority of the concerns of both sides of the debate. This is what I proposed:

First the Referee must be given the same latitude as they were given for the Head Contact Rule. They can call 2:00 for minor infractions, 4:00 for more severe incidents and 5:00 for an attempt to injure another player. This rule exists at every level of hockey in Alberta.

In Atom, allow for players who are moving the same direction to Body Check. I have seen great defensive plays result in a penalty because the defenceman guides the attacking player into the boards. A great play in Bantam but a penalty in Atom. I don’t believe the players are exposed to a high risk injury in this situation and should be taught and allowed to execute this play.

In Peewee, you could allow up to a 90 degree for contact and continue to teach the skill and … the players how to execute and receive this contact safely. Again the Referee has discretion 2, 4 or 5 minute penalties for an appropriate contact.

In Bantam, it is wide open to opposite direction contact and given the number of injuries I see with regards to Body Checking, I believe the vast majority that happen are when players are moving in opposite directions resulting in an impact many times greater than ones where players are moving in the same direction.

This idea seems more logical than the “Let’s See” approach being taken now and since I have a 2002 son, I don’t particularly like how he is the guinea pig being used because there is an excellent chance Hockey Canada made their decision without enough thought or studies. Saying there has been no feedback is much less comforting as I wanted to hear some statistics from Hockey Canada validating the decision not implying that they simply cater to the majority.

All of this doesn’t make me Pro Body Checking as my sons are small players and would benefit from no checking but they do have the ability and desire to play at hockey’s highest levels. I will be committing extra time and allocating money to keep my son as safe as possible from the season he will be facing next year and if he doesn’t get hurt it will be far more likely the result of private training than the dumb luck we have to depend on.

Thank you,
Rick

Tags: minor hockey

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