ROB OLSON, FOX 9 - ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 9) - Precautions normally seen in football are expanding in the hockey world.The Mayo Clinic gave new recommendations Wednesday in an effort to lower the risk of concussions for hockey players.Bantam hockey, in which kids are generally in 8th and 9th grades, is an age where size differences among players can be enormous.
“And there’s such a disparity between the little wee kid who’s 13 and 14 and the kid who’s shaving,” said Dr. Aynsley Smith, of the Mayo Clinic.
The Mayo Clinic’s lead researcher into ice hockey says there’s no reason they need to be checking and a lot of reasons they shouldn’t.
“It’s a healthier thing and if we really want to grow the game, we’ve got to stop seeking violence and promoting it and encouraging the kids to absolutely staple the opponent,” Smith added.
No checking at the Bantam level is one of the recommendations made by the Mayo Clinic to prevent and treat concussions. Also, doctors there are advocating for concussion databases across all levels.
In addition, they recommend enforcing ejections for fighting, better diagnostic tests and mandatory baseline testing to help make those diagnoses.
At most rinks, you’ll find mid-day adult drop-in hockey and there is no checking, but where you can easily find the debate over bantams checking.
“I could go both ways on that,” said a hockey parent. “In one way, I think the younger they learn how to check, the safer the game is when they get older.”
A lot of parents and youth coaches believe it’s a part of the game and it’s safer if learned sooner.
“I think you need to learn how to do that and protect yourself on the ice,” said another parent. “And I don’t see any real upside to delaying that until they’re bigger and stronger.”
“I can say that USA Hockey, Minnesota Hockey are both taking a hard look at it,” said Glen Adresen, of USA Hockey.
USA Hockey, which encompasses Minnesota Hockey, took checking out of Peewee hockey seven years ago to similar criticisms, but they hear few complaints now.
Doing the same at Bantams has been discussed a lot more the past couple of years and the Mayo Clinic has just put more fuel on that fire.
“Do we remove all checking or is it the certain blow-up hits or things like that,” said Glen Andresen, the Executive Director of Minnesota Hockey. “So, there’s a lot to be done beyond the dissuasions at the winter meetings in Orlando.”
This is a debate that we have had on The Junior Hockey Podcast a few times. It's a tough topic to talk about because there are two different schools of thought. One being that checking should be pushed from the Bantam level to the Midget level in youth hockey. The other being that we should have these youth hockey players learning how to check at a young age.
I don't think the issue lies in the fact that we allow checking at younger ages, but the fact that we aren't properly teaching young players how to hit. The reason I believe that checking should be taught at a younger age is because kids are more prone to learn how to check the right way and truly use those skills when playing. Instead, if we were to not allow them to hit until the Midget level, they wouldn't have the physical muscle memory that goes along with checking. Like anything, you are more prone to learn something at a younger age and remember it. If we teach kids to check at the pewee level, they will have years to practice so that once they are big enough and able to throw huge checks, they will understand situations better and know when to go for a big hit and when to lay up.
The other side of the argument is that when kids are younger, in the pewee/bantam level, there are kids that are much bigger than others. So some people believe that if the checking age is pushed to the midget level, kids are more developed and able to protect themselves.
Checking is apart of the game of hockey, it keeps players in line and keeps the peace when needed. Without checking, kids will start to use other forms of 'hitting' like using there stick, throwing cheapshots, etc. The fact that kids can 'get even' or take care of something by laying a huge clean hit on the opposing team is what the game needs. Without checking, hockey loses the edge that it has always had.
I, like most, am split in the middle on this debate. A large portion of my argument lies behind the fact that kids should learn at a younger age. If this were to be the decision moving forward, I believe it is very important that we teach coaches how to show young players how to hit properly. I think it is a skill that needs to be gone over more than just a few practices.
We talked about this on the latest Episode of The Junior Hockey Podcast. We had Jeff LoVecchio on who was in the NHL Boston Bruins organization and played many years of Professional Hockey. He is now invlolved in Youth Hockey in the St. Louis area, so there wasn't a more perfect guest to breadown checking in today's game. He shares his thoughts on when he believes that checking should start in youth hockey.
You can listen to TJHP on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, or on The Junior Hockey Podcast Website!