Friday, May 24, 2013

When Should Hitting Be Introduced in Hockey?

So I've been following a little in the checking controversy in minor hockey.  Hockey Canada is considering removing checking from the Peewee levels across all its leagues.  Most of what you read seems to support the move.  As a kid I didn't start playing checking hockey until Bantam (one age group above Peewee), and I don't think it had a negative impact on my ability to transition into a checking game....but.....I have no way of comparing.  Just for the sake of a blog post I'm going to argue against removing checking.

To be honest, I probably received more checks than I gave, and I'm pretty sure there is a video of me in high school where I took a suicide pass, Lars Eller like, and ended up on my back side, likely unconscious for a second or two.  Back then though there was less attention being given to concussion symptoms so I think I only missed one shift.  Not that I think Eller should have come out and played after that hit.  It was a bad circumstance all the way around for him and his defense man who likely felt terrible without all the media blaming him.  My Habs never recovered after that hit by the way.  Why do I tell you demonstrate that I have reason to support taking contact out of the sport.  However, since, I love the game, I fear the precedence the move might set and what might happen to the game if we reduce the contact.

The whole essence of sport is to compete.  Competition brings out things in people, often an intensity, which helps them compete.  Sometimes this manifests itself as aggression and we need an avenue to vent that aggression.  My fear is that if we take hitting out of Peewee we may see the aggressive tendencies come out of players differently, mainly with the stick.  In Peewee where kids are learning how to compete, if they can't stop you with their body, they can't grab you with their hands, then all they are left with is the stick.  This could be further exacerbated by the fact that in Peewee the gap in development can be large so weaker players who compete not differently will do what they can to stop the player who consistently has beaten him.  If you've played hockey you'll get the picture I'm laying out here. 

Lots of the numbers Hockey Canada is throwing around about kids more likely to suffer a concussion while playing contact hockey in Peewee is very true, but if we take it out of Peewee is not the risk then further increased at the higher levels.  To further the risks if that happens, the speed at which you are hit is much harder in Bantam, Midget, etc than in Peewee so the concussion is likely to be more severe as well.  I have no science to back this up but I wanted to ask the question. 

At first I didn't think it would make a big deal but the more I think about it and read into each side, I think, I would rather see the hitting be introduced in Peewee.  If my kids don't like getting hit at that level, or I don't like them getting hit, then I still have time to get them into another sport where they can compete and not feel out of place.  By the way, my oldest has three more years before he plays Peewee, so I have a stake in this discussion.

Would love to know what others think so drop a comment.

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