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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: BODY CHECKING CHANGES
Jun. 20, 2013

June 5th, 2013 - Dartmouth, NS

To All the Hockey Membership and Partners,

Hockey Nova Scotia (HNS) has had a very busy month. During this period of time, Hockey Canada and Hockey Nova Scotia have implemented some significant changes that we believe will make the game a safer and better experience for our young players.

As most of you are aware, Hockey Canada passed a ruling that removes body checking from the Peewee level of hockey. This came after much discussion and many presentations during the Annual General Meeting on Prince Edward Island. This decision followed the lead of Hockey Nova Scotia, Alberta and Quebec, who had previously eliminated body checking at Peewee.

There has been plenty of misinformation circulating around and I would like to take some time to clarify the facts and set the stage for the upcoming and future seasons. These decisions are not taken lightly. Ultimately, they are about the safety of our youth.

Player safety and in particular, that of our 11 and 12-year old Peewee players, was the reason for this change. There were many factors that led to this decision and these were well-researched and studied prior to making an informed decision. This change is about eliminating as many injuries and concussions at this young age as possible. This decision was not based on skill development, building more technically skilled players for Hockey Canada or winning medals. This decision was based on keeping our youth safe during their formative years of growth.

Player development was studied during this process. The overall skill development of the player will not be hindered. An emphasis will be placed on the development of skills like skating, shooting, puck control, game awareness and on-ice awareness, to name a few. Peewee-aged players will now have two additional years to continue to build the basic skills of the game with a decreased risk of injury. This should better position and prepare them for entry into Bantam hockey where body checking will be introduced.

Ultimately, the decision to eliminate body checking is based on the fourfold increase in the likelihood of Peewee-aged players suffering an injury that will remove them from play and a threefold increase that they will suffer a concussion due to body checking in Peewee hockey. Another key safety consideration was the fact that there is no correlation between the number of injuries at the Bantam level and whether or not a player previously played Peewee hockey with body checking. The injury numbers are the same for players at Bantam regardless of whether the players played with body checking in Peewee or not. Thus we can reduce the number of injuries at Peewee and not put players at a greater risk of injury when they enter Bantam.

But that is not good enough.

We realize that body checking and body contact are integral to our game and, as such, must be introduced and taught as progressive skills. This is no different than the other skills we teach within our game. That is why Hockey Nova Scotia is working with Hockey Canada to develop a comprehensive coaching resource to have body contact and body checking taught as progressive skills. These skills involve angling, body positioning, on-ice awareness and stick checking. They will be taught beginning at the Atom level and continuing for four years through Peewee. Players should be fully prepared and have a firm understanding of the concepts and techniques required to check when the final piece - body checking - is introduced at the Bantam level. We are also revamping our checking clinic module and we will be adding a coach’s component to it for the final step when players enter Bantam hockey.

Hockey Nova Scotia also realizes there are many players who wish to play the game at a competitive level without body checking. There has been huge growth at the Midget C level while numbers at the AA and AAA levels have been declining. As well, there were risk management issues at the lower competitive levels of Bantam and Midget that needed to be addressed. We have had some very skilled players playing below their skill level at the A, B and C levels as a result of where they live or by choice. This creates a dangerous playing environment when you have body checking in the mix with players possessing varied skill sets.

Taking both of these concerns into consideration, the removal of body checking at the B and C levels at Bantam and Midget will now provide choice for players wishing to play non-body checking hockey. This will also allow those players wishing to play body checking hockey to play with players of a similar skill set. There will be three 3 levels of body checking hockey at Midget and Bantam: Major, AA, and A. There will also be three 3 levels of non-body checking hockey: B, C and House.

We believe the end result will be a better and safer game with more choice for our players and families on the ice. We also believe that more families will enjoy our sport and remain a part of it longer.

We will keep you all informed and updated as resources are developed. We look forward to presenting this information at our 2013 Semi-Annual meeting in September.

Have a great summer!

Yours in hockey,

Randy Pulsifer
President, Hockey Nova Scotia




 
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