March 2003
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A Change for the Worse?
By Matthew H., Grade 12, Marystown Central High, Burin, NL

Before the beginning of the 2002-03 Minor Hockey Season in Newfoundland and Labrador, certain rule changes were brought into effect. The most significant was the change to body-checking in younger divisions. It came as a shock to many, and also changed the way hockey was played for these young children. I, myself, do not like this change for many reasons, but, mainly because I believe that more injuries will occur!

Being a Minor Hockey player for 12 years, and in my final year of Midget, I am quite used to body contact. It was introduced to me when I was 14 years old, and in my first year of Bantam. To tell you the truth, I was quite wary of it for the first few games. Body-checking changes the way hockey is played completely. Can you imagine how some of these 10 and 11 year olds must have felt when they heard the news? Now, I'm sure some were excited, but, for many others, it took some of the fun out of the game, and made it much more competitive.

For players my age, checking is very much respected. You don't check for the sake of saying you hit someone, You do it smartly, trying to gain possession of the puck. But, for younger players just starting out, this isn't so. They tend to do it like their NHL heros, trying to be like them. This is exactly how injury occurs. To some of them, checking is something fun, checking is a skill that needs to be taught carefully.

I am also a referee for the Marystown Minor Hockey Association. At the beginning of the year, we sat through endless sessions of body-checking, going over what to call and what not to call. You really have to take this seriously because, if not, you can be held responsible for any injury that occurs when you are reffing. Even now when I ref in the younger divisions, I tend to warn the kids before the game to take it easy. I've witnessed and had to eject players from games due to severe body-checking. I hate to do it, but it is the only way that these kids will learn.

So, I am not in favor of this new rule, and many others will agree that it is meant for the older divisions, not the younger ones! Hopefully no injuries will occur, and Hockey Newfoundland & Labrador will change their decision in the near future!


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