Starting this fall, only minor hockey players in Bantam and up will be allowed to body check in games.
Eliminating body checking at the peewee level will eliminate 400 concussions and more than 1,000 injuries for 11- and 12-year-olds each year in Alberta, says Hockey Alberta.
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“There is overwhelming evidence that body checking is the single most consistent risk factor for injuries and concussions in youth ice hockey,” wrote board chair Rob Virgil in a statement Wednesday.
“Our players’ safety is the foundation in making this decision,” he said.
Hockey Calgary will implement the ban this fall.
"Having it across the board, so all of Alberta is body checking free at the peewee level, now makes it equal no matter where you're playing in Alberta," said Christina Rogers of Hockey Calgary.
Rogers says coaches can still teach hitting during peewee practices.
Data shows that hockey players at 11 and 12 vary greatly in size and weight and doctors warn of the potential damage to developing brains, said executive director Rob Litwinski.
“One of the highest risk factors is for the elite peewee," said Litwinski. "If this decision is a player safety one, as we say it is — and it certainly is, then why would you leave the top level, where the highest risk is, out.”
Hockey Calgary had proposed a similar ban in the past, but that was defeated last summer.
Kevin Tyson, a Calgary coach and parent of a player, says the ban at peewee makes no sense because body checking is a skill that is a part of the game.
"It's baffling," he said. "It doesn't really make sense at all. Like we defeated it last [year] and all of a sudden now it's suddenly pushed through."
Hockey Alberta acknowledges parents are split 50-50 on the issue, but the ban is here to stay.
Litwinski says Ontario and Quebec have eliminated body checking for some peewee teams, but Alberta is the first province in the country to ban body checking for all peewee-level hockey players.
Hockey Alberta, which governs hockey in the province, put together the committee to come up with recommendations on body checking two years ago.
Litwinski expects some push back on the ban from parents of children playing at the elite level, but he hopes they'll come around after reviewing the data.
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