Ontario Hockey Federation gridlocked over half-rink hockey after 25 GTA leagues threaten to defy new rule
A special board meeting was called to debate whether all players under 7 will play on half the rink size
Ontario Hockey Federation reached a stalemate on Saturday when deciding whether to implement a new rule in the upcoming season that requires all players under the age of seven to play on half the size of a regular rink regardless of their skill level.
The agency called a special board meeting after a group of Greater Toronto Area organizations refused to implement the new rule, saying their "select" teams, drawn from the top players in house league to play each other at arenas throughout the city, will be playing full-ice this season.
"Once the board of directors has rendered a final decision, it will be communicated directly to all stakeholders and announced publicly," a statement read.
Some 25 GTA house league organizations argue that while the regular tyke-level house league teams are ready to make the switch to cross-ice hockey — in which half the rink is blocked off and nets are placed on the sideboards — but the select teams aren't prepared to make the jump.
Steve Zinanni, president of the Mimico Canadiens, told CBC News last week that Hockey Canada should leave the decision up to league officials, coaches and players.
"It shouldn't be mandated. I think it should be a guideline," he said.
"It's a select format that's been going on for 65 years. I don't think it's broke, so I don't necessarily know if it needs to be fixed."
But the goal is simple, Phil McKee, director of Ontario Hockey Federation, says.
Hockey Canada's research shows that less ice can make a big difference in getting players involved in games, he explained, noting that other sports have also reduced the size of play.
"Tennis has gone to it, soccer does it already, baseball does it already," McKee said.
"In the range of 200 per cent more shots and opportunities, plus an increased opportunity for being on the ice."
McKee says Ontario Hockey Federation first announced the switch in March, sparking dissent among dozens of GTA house leagues. Three months later, the provincial sport body announced any hockey organization who defies the new rule could face heavy penalties from Hockey Canada.
The ramifications of not complying could go far beyond the five and six-year-old tyke level select teams: a July letter from the Ontario Hockey Federation said that players of all ages from non-compliant organizations will be barred from participating in or hosting tournaments.
CBC News contacted Ontario Hockey Federation to learn when a final decision can be expected, but hasn't yet received a response.