Courtesy CTV Edmonton....
In an effort to keep young players on the ice and out of the emergency room, the Ontario Hockey Federation is banning bodychecking for recreational players between the ages of six and 21.
The rule change announced earlier this week by the largest provincial branch of Hockey Canada affects house league players drawn from all skill levels as well as the select teams comprised of the top house league players.
Players in the federation's higher level "rep" teams are not covered by the ban, however.
In a statement, the OHF said its ban should "bring the focus back to the basics" of the game.
"The removal creates a safer environment for new players that join the game at any age to develop the fundamental skills of skating and puck handling without the concern of being intentionally hit by another player," the OHF said.
Several studies have linked body contact to increased injuries among players, including one published last year that found youngsters allowed to check their opponents were not only more than twice as likely to get injured, they were more likely to suffer concussions.
Comparing the experience of Pee Wee players in Alberta where bodychecking is allowed, and Quebec where bodychecking is banned, researchers concluded that removing body contact could prevent 1,000 game-related injuries and more than 400 concussions.
But some believe learning to deal with bodychecks early is essential for anyone who wants to excel at the sport.
Acknowledging that the contentious debate is far from settled, McKee said fans and players of the sport should not see this change as a step towards eliminating checking from the game altogether.
"It's a move to remove it from a level where the focus should be on skating skills, puck development," he said.
The OHF represents approximately 40 per cent of the registered players in this country. Of those, approximately 70 per cent, or more than 150,000 play recreational hockey.
visit http://www.ctv.ca/ for the full story