“Our players’ safety is the foundation in making this decision,” said Hockey Alberta’s Chair of the Board, Rob Virgil. “There is overwhelming evidence that body checking is the single most consistent risk factor for injuries and concussions in youth ice hockey.”
In 2012, the Board of Directors established a Body Checking Review Committee and tasked them with reviewing relevant scientific research, member feedback from past AGMs and a recent survey and the positions of other Hockey Canada branches as they developed recommendations on options for body checking in Minor Hockey.
Over the course of the past year, the Committee debated and decided upon the following recommendations which were recently presented to and approved by the Board:
1. Create an overall Player Safety Strategy that includes a focus on the reduction of serious injuries in the game at all levels.
2. Continue to work within the guiding principles of the Long Term Player Development (LTPD) and allow these principles to frame the decision-making process around player development programs at all levels.
3. Remove body checking from all categories of the Peewee age group (11-12 years old).
The Board of Directors felt strongly based on the research and information presented that the organization make this policy level change without delay.
“Hockey Alberta should be commended for taking a leadership role in creating a safer playing environment for our youth,” said Dr. Brian Benson, director of the Sport Concussion Clinic at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre. “Recent evidence suggests removing body checking at the Peewee level will reduce players' risk of concussions and injuries overall by more than three-fold."
Starting next season, the rules of play for the Atom age category will also apply to the Peewee age division. There will be no body checking in all categories of Peewee hockey, and there will be a penalty assessed for players who body check. Coaches will still be required to take the Checking Skills Program in Peewee and encouraged to teach safe checking skills in a practice environment.