The Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association is adjusting to a new decision by Hockey Canada to ban bodychecking for peewee-level players nationwide.
Paul Sorley, president of the WLMHA, said it’s an adjustment that will affect everyone from players, to parents, to referees and to coaches.
“The rule change will affect returning peewee players as they were used to bodychecking [last year], but first-year peewees have not been exposed to bodychecking at this point in their hockey careers,” he said.
“The rule change impacts players as they will now have to learn to not bodycheck and coaches have to teach body position versus bodychecking (rubbing out).”
Hockey Canada, along with the Canadian Paediatric Society, thinks the rule change is a massive step in the right direction, citing an increased focus on teaching fundamental skills and a decreased risk of concussions as its benefits.
“The Canadian Paediatric Society applauds the leadership taken [in May] by Hockey Canada to remove body-checking from Pee Wee level hockey across the country,” Dr. Andrew Lynk, president of the organization, said in a press release.
“This evidence-based decision puts brain safety first, and will enhance player development by focusing on fundamental skills, fun and lifetime fitness.”
Additionally, Sorely said young referees who officiate many of the games in Williams Lake will now need to learn to properly distinguish between a bodycheck and body contact.
“It’s worth noting [in the past] there was a bodychecking clinic held each year to teach these peewee players to properly bodycheck,” he said. “Bodychecking will now have to be taught to older, bigger bantam players.”
Despite the push by Hockey Canada to make the game safer for young players the rule change has drawn some criticism from hockey enthusiasts and organizations around the country.
The Saskatchewan Hockey Association came out strongly opposed to the ruling, noting its membership “has always been very strongly in favour of having bodychecking as early as possible.”
Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry also spoke out against the ruling during a Coach’s Corner segment filmed during last year’s NHL season. Cherry said removing hitting will make things worse for the players as they get older because of a lack of experience and preparation.
“You [Hockey Canada] have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Cherry said. “You’re gonna be sorry. You watch and see, you will be sorry.”
The Williams Lake Peewee Rep Timberwolves are currently in the midst of tryouts and will select a final roster following the Cariboo Amateur Hockey Association Icebreaker Tournament Sept. 28-29 in Quesnel.