President’s resignation re-ignites debate over possible body checking ban

Minor hockey in Calgary went from having to deal with requests to get hitting banned at the peewee level to finding a replacement president in just a few days.

On Monday, Sept. 24, executive and board members at Minor Hockey Calgary decided that they would continue sending a letter of request to ban hitting at the peewee level — where children playing hockey are in the 11-12 age group — to Hockey Alberta, despite the recent resignation of Minor Hockey Calgary president Todd Millar.

The letter asks Hockey Alberta to look at information collected by local minor hockey clubs in Calgary in regards to banning hitting at the peewee level throughout the province. The letter looks also asks Hockey Alberta to review the process that Calgary Minor Hockey Calgary clubs took in its failure to ban hitting in the city.

“It states that Hockey Calgary would support a decision made by Hockey Alberta to ban hitting at the peewee level provided it was implemented across the province,” said Millar in an interview with the Calgary Journal just two days before his resignation.

The letter comes three months after the 2012 Minor Hockey Calgary’s annual general meeting on June 23. At the meeting, the 24 associations that make up Minor Hockey Calgary voted against the proposal and failed to ban hitting throughout the peewee level.Peewee players practice for the upcoming season at the Southland arena.

Photo by Caitlin Gajdostik

Kevin Tyson, president of the Saints hockey club in Calgary, said that one of the main concerns about banning hitting at the peewee level was that Calgary would be an “island” in the province. He said that if hitting was not banned province-wide, Hockey Calgary players would be “pummeled” by other clubs who would keep the hitting at that level whenever Calgary peewee teams would travel outside of the city.

The push to ban hitting came into discussion after University of Calgary researcher Carolyn Emery published a study that found the injury rates amongst Alberta peewee players was three times higher than players at the same level in Quebec, where hitting at the peewee level has been banned.

In spite of the general meeting vote against a hitting ban, a letter was brought forth by a group of concerned Hockey Calgary members at another board meeting later in August.

“Council voted strictly to send a letter with the findings to Hockey Alberta,” said Kevin Tyson. “And that was it – not to reverse the decision made in June.”

Deciding whether or not to ban hitting at this age is an issue that has divided many involved in minor hockey in Calgary, including former president Todd Millar.

Peewee players practice for the upcoming season at the Southland arena.

Photo by Caitlin GajdostikAccording to the Calgary Sun, Millar stepped down on Sept. 23, just days before the monthly board meeting and after a personal blog he wrote calling those against the ban “morons” in April. Millar has since removed the blog post.

“What Todd wrote on his blog was his personal opinion and it had nothing to do with his position at Minor Hockey Calgary,” said Christina Rogers, manager of communications and marketing for Minor Hockey Calgary in an interview with the Calgary Journal. Rogers said that Millar stepping down was by his own choice.

In an interview before Millar stepped down, he said that this was a “hot button issue” that will not be resolved any time soon.

Rob Litwinski, executive director of Hockey Alberta said that Hockey Alberta is yet to receive the letter as of Sept. 28 requesting a ban on peewee hitting, but is aware of the letter coming.

“We will take a look at what the letter has to say, what our own body checking committee has to say about the issue and formulate a response to them,” he said.

“What we hear most is that there has to be some level of consistency throughout Alberta regarding this issue. Currently, Hockey Alberta adheres to Hockey Canada’s position on the issue and they still recommend hitting at the peewee level.”

cgajdostik@cjournal.ca