With the 2012 - 2013 hockey season just around the corner, it is one of the hottest debates in the minor hockey hockey world.
Should body checking be part of the game at youth levels? If hitting is "part of the game", as many argue, at what age should it be introduced?
Should kids learn how to check and be checked?
Bodychecking is controversial in every league, but especially in developmental leagues. How early should it be taught? Some people believe bodychecking should be introduced early, so young players have plenty of time to develop the skills they’ll need to protect themselves.
A common misconception is that the skill of checking begins at a certain age or age category of play. In fact, checking is a 4-step progression that begins the first time a young player steps on the ice. Body checking is the fourth and final step of a four step teaching progression. Body checking is a tactic used by players to gain control of the puck.
It involves the skill of skating (it is not possible to check an opponent if you cannot out skate that opponent) and the skill of learning how to position the body to control another player’s body, all for the purpose of obtaining the puck.
Body checking is not hitting and the use of hitting to intimidate opponents.
A structured curriculum would teach body control — angling and anticipation and other skills required to take a body check and deliver one.
A change in attitude is needed to curb hockey violence. Body checking should be curbed by enforcing established rules and dealing appropriately with the violence that permeates hockey and, some would say, society at large.
Children need to be taught how to give or take body checks. If they are learning how to skate, stick-handle, pass and shoot, as well as how to carry and pass the puck with their heads up, they will be able to take the occasional legal body check.
Let's take the violence out of hockey by enforcing the rules, not by trying to remake the game.
Maybe we need to make Make two divisions, contact and non-contact?
Quoted by Ken Belanger - By teaching younger kids how to body check properly, the injuries that they’re sustaining will be reduced. The fact is, injuries result from delivering or receiving body checks in an unskillful manner.
If young players are taught about “the art and proper use of a body check,” as they learn to skate and play the game, it will become a skilled effort. The further into the future you push kids learning about proper hitting, the more risk you’re allowing when they do learn the skill.
The competitiveness of play increases as kids get older. Introducing body checking at an older age – when kids are bigger and stronger – creates risk and recklessness that could otherwise be trained for at a younger age.
In other words, body checking is a better skill to teach while kids are all relatively the same size and skill level (approximately 9 years old).
At this age, they’re still too small to hurt each other rather than in their early teens when size varies and aggression is rewarded on the ice.