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Malik Kaddoura wants 20-year-old players to have an extra year of eligibility to play. VIDEO: GEORGE POTTER

Young hockey players have had little ice time this year due to the pandemic. However, Olds Grizzlys forward Malik Kaddoura is hoping to make up for the lost hours with a petition asking Hockey Canada to extend the age-group eligibility. 

The 2020-21 season for the Alberta Junior Hockey League has faced hard times due to the rise and fall of COVID numbers through the fall and winter. The league played exhibition games and a short regular season in October and November, before pausing until March 12, when they resumed games. It’s been challenging for teams and players alike.

Kaddoura only played three regular-season games during the fall and scored one assist before the league had to shut down.

For many 20-year-old players like Kaddoura, this is the final year of eligibility to play junior hockey. Some players have individual goals to move on to either college or professional leagues. For players ageing out, it is important to get a full final year for future athletic opportunities.

Kaddoura created a petition to help players who are in their last eligible year to play.  He said he wants to reduce the mental and physical toll many young players are experiencing from the lack of playing time.

Olds Grizzlys Forward Malik Kaddoura, left, challenging Calgary Canucks defenceman and captain Colin MacPhearson on Oct 14. 2020. PHOTO: GEORGE POTTER

The petition has gained more than 1,200 signatures from people across the country who want young players to get a chance to play a full final year of hockey. 

 “Some 20-year olds will move on, and others may not, but like for the people who aren’t, it’s their last year of hockey. So it’s really for everyone, and for the people who want to move on, we obviously would want the opportunity to move on by getting the opportunities to get looked at,” said Kaddoura. 

Hockey Canada’s opinion on the situation is that they will not give an extension to players in amateur leagues. However, Kaddoura disagrees with Hockey Canada’s stance because leagues like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and U Sports have granted young athletes an extension.

“The 20-year-old move dictates what you do next year. So it kind of trickles down to us first before it trickles down to any other age group because it’s our last year of hockey,” said Kaddoura.

Malik Kaddoura’s Petition on Change.org to help 20-year-old players has over 1,000 signatures. PHOTO: GEORGE POTTER

Hockey Canada was unable to provide a representative to interview for this story. However, they sent a statement regarding the issue:

“Hockey Canada does not believe that making changes to its age Divisions to address the needs of one age group is the right thing to do for its many other younger players, who have been similarly affected over the past eleven months. Accordingly, Hockey Canada does not anticipate changing its age classifications for the 2021-22 season.”

In response to the statement made by Hockey Canada, Kaddoura expressed his disappointment that it would leave 20-year-old players in junior hockey stuck with nowhere to go.