Smaller sized rinks for younger players will be enforced for the upcoming 2017 – 2018 season by Hockey Canada. Hockey Canada is confident that this mandate will allow younger players to refine foundational hockey skills.
After many years of light enforcement, Hockey Canada is now mandating cross – ice hockey for children who are in the Initiate age group (ages 7 and under). The protocol for reduced ice rinks will start in the upcoming 2017 – 2018 hockey season.
The Initiation Program, which was started 35 years ago, has always recommended cross – ice hockey. However, the implementation of cross – ice hockey varied in different communities. Other countries such as Sweden and the United States have already mandated cross – ice rinks for younger age groups.
Not everyone is supportive of this rule. Some blogs and forums have expressed that this new strategy will hold players back. One commenter on an article for Hockey News stated that a problem with cross – ice hockey is, “Time and space. They are not being taught the team aspects of the game, passing, getting open, and learning to anticipate plays.”
On the contrary, there are several studies that support cross – ice hockey. Vice President of Membership Development at Hockey Canada, Paul Carson , stated that Hockey Canada watched videos of young players on ice. Carson stated that what he saw in the footage was that, “ The entire shift is puck control by two players and eight other players skating up and down the ice following the play, and maybe even at some point deciding, ‘I might as well wait down here. It’s going to come back eventually.” Carson also noted that the footage revealed that there were multiple breakaways by the strongest player on the team. Additionally, USA Hockey did a study that showed considerable differences when using cross – ice rinks. With less ice space, USA Hockey noted that there was twice as many puck battles, double the amount of pass attempts and five times as many passes were received.
Smaller ice rinks will allow more individuals to get ice – time. Players will get the chance to master foundational techniques such as shooting, battling for the puck and stick handling. Supporters of cross – ice hockey state that players of all ages and skill levels will be able to refine their craft. Other sports such as basketball, soccer and T – ball have already implemented similar accommodation strategies for younger age groups.
For this new protocol, special boards and bumpers will be used. However, Carson adds, that Hockey Canada is lenient on how the rinks are divided. Carson stated different examples for dividers like parents or two by fours.
Hockey Canada has started various initiatives in order to ensure that programs across Canada are properly informed about cross – ice hockey. This includes the newly launched app, Hockey Network, by Hockey Canada features videos and information on cross – ice hockey. The National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), which is the program for entry level hockey coaches, will have resources to teach coaches about cross – ice hockey. Hockey Canada has also produced a video that advocates for cross – ice hockey. The video features the likes of Sidney Crosby, Bill Peters and Brian Jenners.
Written and reprinted with permission by Tim Turk – NHL Hockey Shooting & Scoring Coach
Special to HockeyClan
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