Bodychecking ban gets mixed reaction at Challenge Cup

Mixed reaction continues to Hockey Canada's recent rule that bans body contact for children under 13-years-old.

Annual Maritimes peewee hockey tournament taking place in Moncton

Debate over when to allow players to start hitting has inflamed emotions on both sides of the argument for years.

Mixed reaction continues to Hockey Canada's recent rule that bans body contact for children under 13-years-old.

Dozens of peewee-level hockey teams from across the Maritimes are in Moncton this weekend for the annual Challenge Cup.

In May, Hockey Canada’s board of director’s voted overwhelmingly in favour of eliminating body checking from the game.

Debate over when to allow players to start hitting has inflamed emotions on both sides of the argument for years.

But research that came 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.

Twelve-year-old Elliot McNutt competing in this year’s tournament in Moncton said he misses the more physical aspect of the game.

“I like checking myself, so I think it was kind of a loss because there's not enough action,” he said.

Greg Ripley is the goalie for McNutt’s team. He said he sees more action after the change.

“There's a lot more breakaways and stuff like that now that we can't hit,” said Ripley.

Their coach, Matt Lewis of Amherst, said the risk of concussions was just too high among the preteens who can range in weight from 70 to 120 pounds.

“It's good, I think it gives kids more time to develop and work on their skills,” he said.

Hockey Dad Ron Arthurs of Pedicodiac disagrees. He wants to see checking begin even earlier.

“Teach them young, teach them how to do it. I feel when they come to bantam there's going to be a lot of kids hurt in bantam because they're not going to know how to do it,” he said.

Hockey Mom, Kelly Boudreau of Bedford, N.S., said whatever parents or players think, there's been an increase in the number of kids staying with the game.

“You see it in the numbers and registrations — at least in our association, there were a lot more kids that remained in the game — so in terms of numbers because they knew there was no hitting,” she said.

Hockey Canada said bodychecking now starts with kids who are in the under 15 age category.

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