USA Hockey instituted a rule change for the 2011-12 season that eliminated body checking at the 12U level. The organization reports that over 88 percent of hockey administrators from around the country at last year's USA Hockey Annual Congress were in agreement with the new policy.
The intent in instituting this rule change was three-fold:
1. Continue to insure the safest possible playing environment for young athletes
2. Allow players an additional two years to develop the fundamental skills of skating, puck control, passing, shooting, and position play without the distraction of including body checking which might impede a player's natural development;
3. Allow players two more years of body contact in games and practicing body checking on-ice and off-ice in practice
With the first full season of no body contact play at 12U completed, USA Hockey is surveying parents about thoughts on this recent rule adjustment this past season.
The survey asked several questions including:
- If the new ruling improved the flow of the games
- If it reduced the number of stoppages
- If the change reduced penalties
- Allowed the child to focus more on the primary hockey fundamentals
- Reduced the number of injuries
- Inquired if there was concern that child will have a difficult time adjusting to body-checking when she/he becomes a first-year Bantam
- Inquired if games finished sooner, and length of games was shorter
- If rule change made the games safer for son/daughter
- Scoring increased
- made the pace of games faster
- made the games more fun to watch
The survey also asked that if looking ahead to the 2012-13 season, what would the parents recommend.
Late last year, I interviewed USA Hockey's Senior Director of Communications, Dave Fischer on the subject of body checking and I asked if he felt that the absence of checking and the lack of preparation would have a negative effect on youth players as they move to bantam's, especially in the Southern region where officiating is tremendously inconsistent.
He responded that there was no sign that such a result would take place when pee-wee’s moved up to bantam level.
There is a wide chasm of opinion on the subject of body checking and I still feel it has partially to do with economics.
Nationwide private rink owners point to how more kids are leaving the sport when body checking is introduced.
With the current economic downturn and noticeably less youth players signing up to play ice hockey because of fear of injury and concussion.
I am also aware that youth players in the Province of Ontario,Canada do body check at the pee-wee level and still maintain the highest skill level in the world.
Food for thought : When the No Check policy was presented USA Hockey proposed that youth players would have the chance to transition into body checking by working on those skills during team practices as pee-wee’s.
Ask yourself have you seen such training in any practice your child participates in so far?
Then ask yourself if you child has ecountered teams that seem very comfortable plasying physical?
Those 2 answers will assist you in evaluating the No Checking Policy.