Minor hockey officials in New Brunswick are carefully watching the growing movement to ban body checking from peewee hockey.
Hockey Nova Scotia passed a motion banning body checking on Sunday, a decision that will come into force at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season.
Nova Scotia is following Alberta’s lead in removing hitting from peewee hockey.
Nic Jansen, a representative from Hockey New Brunswick, said the organization will be talking to other officials within Hockey Canada and to provinces that have taken out hitting at the younger age group.
Jansen said a decision on the future of hitting in peewee hockey in the province will likely be made at Hockey New Brunswick’s annual meeting in June.
"The safety of the game is always priority number one with us. With checking, we know that concussions do happen," he said.
"So that's the number one reason why we are looking at it because we want to reduce the number of injuries, specifically head injuries."
Hockey leagues in Ontario and Quebec have eliminated body checking for some peewee teams, but Alberta and Nova Scotia are the first to ban body checking for all peewee-level hockey players.
Peewee hockey includes players who are between 11 and 12 years old.
Rob Litwinski, the executive director of Hockey Alberta, said in an interview last week that data shows that hockey players at that age vary greatly in size and weight and doctors warn of the potential damage to developing brains.
Darren Shakotko, a peewee hockey coach in Fredericton, said there can be significant size differences among players on his teams.
He said he’s had some players who were four-feet-six-inches tall and 80 pounds and others who were close to six-feet tall and 150 pounds.
Shakotko, who played professional hockey in the Central Hockey League, said he is “neutral” on the question about whether to eliminate hitting from peewee hockey.
“I see both sides,” he said.
“If they take it out, I would be OK with that. If they leave it in, I would be OK with that. As long as someone needs to realize, it is a skill and it needs to be taught.”
However, Matt Stairs, the head coach of the Fredericton High School hockey team, said he would like to see hitting remain in the game.
"The kids at some age have to learn, it’s like taking slap shots, you need to develop the game and checking is part of the game,” Stairs said.
“I think the biggest thing is that there [are] different teams where you can play for a non-contact [team]. I have no problem with kids playing peewee hockey and learning to check as long as they are taught properly. Unfortunately, a lot of kids in high school don’t hit properly.”
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