Some Vancouver-area parents are applauding a recent Hockey Canada decision to ban bodychecking for peewee-level players, as mounting evidence links checking with the risk of concussion.
"I think it's good. There's a lot of contact later if the kids want to do it," said Daymon Eng, who was watching his son play hockey in Richmond on Sunday. "It's a way of protecting kids. There's a lot of concussions at young ages."
Barney Mould, who was also at the rink watching his granddaughter play on Sunday, agreed.
"I think it's great," he said. "She's going to get two years more playing with the boys now, because there's no hitting. We would have taken her out as soon as the hitting started, so we love the decision."
Hockey Canada's board of directors overwhelmingly voted to eliminate bodychecking for peewee players at its annual general meeting in Charlottetown on Saturday, with only the Saskatchewan Hockey Association voting against.
The decision comes in the same month that both Hockey Alberta and Hockey Nova Scotia did away with bodychecking for its peewee players. Quebec had also previously banned it.
Bodychecking is already banned in Vancouver-area hockey, in the "house" and recreational leagues. But it has been allowed for competitive players, starting at the peewee level when children are just 11 and 12 years old.
Debate over bodychecking continues
The Canadian Paediatric Society thinks it's a massive step in the right direction.
"The Canadian Paediatric Society applauds the leadership taken today by Hockey Canada to remove body-checking from Pee Wee level hockey across the country," Dr. Andrew Lynk, president of the organization, said in a press release.
"This evidence-based decision puts brain safety first, and will enhance player development by focusing on fundamental skills, fun and lifetime fitness."
The society recommends waiting until kids are 13 years old to allow bodychecking.
Debate over when to allow players to start hitting has inflamed emotions on both sides of the argument for years and some parents maintain that bodychecking is a skill that should be taught to young children to help them protect themselves.
But research out of Alberta last year showed there was a three-fold increase in the risk of injuries for peewee players who check in Alberta, compared to those in Quebec where bodychecking is not allowed until bantam.
Paul Carson, vice-president of hockey development for Hockey Canada, said safety was a key factor in the board's decision.
"While some would be reluctant because of their traditional beliefs of the game, they also understood that the safety and the area of skill development were critical issues to consider," Carson said on Saturday.