Alberta Hockey Urges Lighter Pucks, Modified Rules for Young Hockey Players
Posted by Dean Holden at July 8th, 2015
by Emma McIntosh, 13 June 2015
Two intiation-level players battle for the puck in this file photo. Mikael Kjellstrom
Though some parents may resist, new provincial guidelines for younger hockey players will give them better skills in the long run, Alberta Hockey’s director of development Justin Fesyk said Saturday.
Though not mandatory, the recommendations include smaller playing areas, lighter pucks, modified rules and enhanced coaching for players under the age seven. Fesyk says these ideas aren’t meant to make the game easier, but to help players at the initiation level learn.
“All those things that we impose on five- or six-year-olds, I mean, you look at human growth and development, and they’re physically not ready,” said Fesyk at Hockey Alberta’s annual general meeting in Calgary over the weekend.
Hockey is one of the few sports that doesn’t modify the size of its playing surface and equipment based on age. However, Fesyk says the same thing can be accomplished with tools ranging from temporary boards to pylons. Money and support will also be available to help associations make the transition.
Hockey Alberta sent out a bulletin advising members of the planned changes in April.
Besides the scientific research, anecdotal evidence seems to support the changes as well. Many clubs are already following the guidelines in their programs for ages seven and under — with positive results.
David Zondag, vice-president of operations and Hockey Alberta representative at the Stettler Minor Hockey Association, says parents initially pushed back when they started using half-ice in younger age groups. Some even threatened to switch leagues. Zondag says after a few practices, however, all families ended up liking the results.
“The parents always come around,” he said.
The executive director of Hockey Alberta, Rob Litwinski, says discussions like these are happening nationwide and Quebec is already experiencing success with similar protocols.
“If we could build our model, we’d build it just like Quebec,” he said.
In the long run, Litwinski says, adaptations like this may lead to better skills later in life. Although it isn’t the main goal, he says leagues that have had similar programs for a while seem to be producing more elite players.
“That outcome is part of it,” Litwinski said.
“However, that’s not what this is about. This is about keeping people in the game and doing it right.”
Fesyk agreed, saying that the focus is really on making hockey more fun for kids.
“We want to focus on smiles on faces and positive experiences at the entry level. There’ll be lots of time in atom and peewee to cover the next level of the game.”
<Awesome! About freakin’ time… I have been pushing this for years and to help enact positive change, last year I joined both a local minor soccer board that completely embraces this philosophy (with much success!) Last month, I joined a local minor hockey board to help evolve the culture to that of a ‘model association’. Time will tell but I’m optimistic! – DH>
Category: age-appropriateness, career counselling, coaching culture, communication, cross ice games, decision training, education, equipment, evaluation, fun, growth & development, interview, leadership, learning, life skills, LTAD, motivation, parents, philosophy, planning / periodization, practices, research, responsibility, retention, right-sized equipment, skill acquisition, small area games, sporting culture, teaching