from an expert in the field:
from an expert in the field:
IT IS THE opinion of the
membership of the
Association that body
checking is a skill required
by the game and should
be taught along with such other essential skills as
skating, puck handling, shooting and passing.
The theory is that if body checking is taught
early and correctly, young players learn to use
the skill for what it’s intended to do: separate the
player from the puck and gain possession of the
puck. The public’s understanding of body checking, based on the big hits they see in NHL
games, is not what is taught in Saskatchewan
Unfortunately, the only province that
requires at least one coach on every minor
hockey team to attend a body checking course is
Saskatchewan. At these courses, coaches learn
how to teach this skill properly and safely. More
than 6,000 coaches across the province have
taken this course, and it works. A study of minor
hockey players from 2004 to 2006 randomly
selected in Saskatchewan and Alberta found:
• At the Atom level (age 10 and younger),
very few injuries were reported in both prov-
inces, and the number of injuries was the same in
Saskatchewan (where body checking is taught
and was allowed at that time in Atom) as it was
in Alberta (where it isn’t taught or allowed to be
• At the Pee Wee level (ages 11 and 12), there
were more injuries in Alberta than there were in
Saskatchewan, where kids were taught the skill at
younger (Atom) ages.
This study supports our stance that when
body checking is taught at younger age levels
there will be fewer injuries at the older levels. A
2012 study conducted at the Canadian
Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level supports it, too.
The CIS study found there were three times
more concussions in women’s hockey (where
there is no body checking) than in men’s hockey
(which has body checking).
How can this be? If body checking isn’t
taught early, when kids get older and the game is
faster, players have a tendency to not keep their
head up and run into other players and/or the
boards, which subsequently causes an injury.
Ultimately, the Saskatchewan Hockey
Association wants the ability to implement body
checking at the age levels our members wish it to
be. If body checking is implemented in minor
hockey, it should be mandatory for coaches to
learn how to teach it properly. C
HOCKEY IS A great
game. It’s Canada’s game.
Yet recent headlines suggest that 90 per cent of
Canadians are reluctant to
put their children into
hockey programs. To some it’s a stunning statistic, but not to those who have experienced the
high cost of hockey, particularly as it pertains to
the health of their children. And a great deal of
that cost is the result of body checking.
According to the Canadian Medical
Association, body checking is associated with 86
per cent of youth hockey injuries. When my son
was 11, he played one year of rep-level body
checking hockey. His team sustained many injuries, including a number of serious concussions.
As a result, the team was asked to participate in a
University of Toronto concussion study, and I
became aware of the growing body of medical
evidence linking concussions to serious long-term health consequences such as depression
At the time, there was no rep-level non-contact league in Toronto. So we started our own.
My son’s first reaction was “There goes my NHL
career.” But after four years in operation, we’ve
come to believe that banning body checking in
youth hockey could actually help create better
players at all levels of hockey, including the NHL.
When you take body checking out of hockey, the
game is faster, and players have to be smarter and
work harder as a team to move the puck around
and score. The fact that many of the NHL’s fastest
and smartest players are European supports this:
In Europe, body checking generally isn’t intro-
duced until players are older.
Many old-timers grumble that they grew up
playing rough-and-tumble hockey and survived
it. But the fact is, players got their bell rung
plenty of times back then; we all saw it but didn’t
realize it might have lifelong health consequences. In fact, we now know it can shorten
Banning body checking in all youth hockey
would be a win-win for all: It would encourage
more Canadians to put their children into
hockey programs; it would allow more players to
play the game longer, well into their adult years;
and it would produce smarter, healthier NHL
players. And that would make Canada’s game
that much greater.
By the way, my son and his friends still love
hockey, which may be the true sign that you
don’t need body checking to make the game
Opinions expressed are those of
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Kelly McClintock is general manager of the Saskatchewan Hockey
Bill Robertson is the president and co-founder of the Toronto
Non-Contact Hockey League (