But is it really making a difference in safety at all levels?
The Calgary minor hockey season is winding to a close, and with it, the first full year of a province-wide ban on bodychecking for all levels of peewee hockey and under which includes kids ages 11 – 12 years old.
Hockey Alberta instituted the checking ban for the 2013/2014 season after forming a committee tasked with reviewing research on injury risks for minor hockey players.
Hockey Calgary had tried to institute a similar ban in the summer of 2012 but the motion was defeated by a narrow margin amidst contentious debate between officials, parents and volunteers.
Research, like that done by the University of Calgary’s Sport Medicine Centre, was instrumental in the decision by the provincial governing body for minor hockey.
According to information, available on Hockey Alberta’s website, the ban will prevent an estimated 1,273 injuries related to bodychecking including 488 concussions per season.
Kevin Lausberg is the coach for one of Midnapore’s peewee teams in the city’s southeast. While he has seen the injuries go down this year, he is yet to be convinced that the ban made the game safer for his players.
Although he is a first year peewee coach, he knows from experience how much of a change there is when players move up the ranks.
“I can’t say for sure whether it’s an improvement over last year, but I just worry about our kids moving up to the next level and whether they’ll be prepared.”
Merv Dafoe’s son Owen is a second-year player on the Mavericks and was able to body check last year before the ban was implemented.
Dafoe is worried this ban has simply delayed teaching kids proper techniques and respect for a very physical game.
“It’s a topic I’m very passionate about,” says Dafoe. “I personally think you should start teaching them at an even younger age when they are slower, lighter and not as strong to reduce injury risks.
“If you’re going to take it out at one level you should take it out at all levels because the risks will still be there when kids move up.
Hockey Calgary, the city’s governing body declined to comment at this time as they are still gathering in data now that the season has ended to evaluate the bans effectiveness.
Geoff Crane from the Calgary Journal visited a game featuring Calgary’s peewee Esso Minor Hockey Week champs, the Midnapore Mavericks, to see how the implementation of the rule is going.
Produced by Geoff Crane