Minor hockey tryouts are starting up in Sooke for the 2011/12 season, and beginning this year the game will have a hint of European influence.
As of last month, The Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association banned all body checking in recreation (rec, also known as house) hockey leagues. And that’s just fine with former ECHL player Greg Batters.
“There’s no reason in lower (levels) to have body checking. Body contact, sure, but not body checking,” said Batters, who is also the president of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
“In house or rec hockey we want to have kids play because they want to play and they’re not afraid to get hurt.”
Peewee through midget leagues (ages 11-17) are affected by the ruling. Incidental body contact, however, is allowed. VIAHA defines body checking as a “physical extension of the body” by a defender to the puck carrier in an opposite or parallel direction (think open ice hit), and contact as blocking the progress of the puck carrier without pushing, hitting or shoving towards the boards.
Some people have raised concerns over the ban, such as kids not being properly prepared for the physical nature in the upper echelons of the hockey world. But Batters said there are “very few” kids that play recreational who end up going pro.
“We’re hoping to turn these kids that play (minor league) hockey into hockey fans so they end up becoming lifelong players, and coaches of their own kids maybe down the road.”
The main problem with hitting in this segment of the sport is size.
“You got kids that hit puberty that are fully grown and other kids that aren’t. There is a bigger discrepancy in size at that age group (than any other),” he said.
“It’s our rules that govern where kids play—it’s an age-based rule, it’s not a size-based rule. If that’s what we’re doing we better have their best interests at heart.”
Hockey enthusiast and adult recreational player Nicholas Chow had an alternate idea to eliminating body checking.
“They should teach kids how to hit properly,” he said, who added body checking-related injuries often happen in minor hockey because kids hurl themselves at each other without proper training.
Batters remains happy with the decision.
“There’s more positive coming out of this than negative by a hundred miles.”