The Greater Toronto Hockey League has voted to eliminate body-checking for all players under 18 in the less-competitive single ''A level."
The 326-195 vote took place Saturday afternoon at Toronto's Humber College and followed an effort by one mother to ban body-checking after her son suffered a concussion.
"There was lots of good statistics presented about the injury rates and penalties and the number of games players are missing because of suspendable penalties that are connected to body-checking," GTHL executive director Scott Oakman said.
The new rule will be phased in over four years, starting next season with the 12- and 13-year-olds in minor Bantam A. The ban will eventually extend to Bantam and Midget A, including players up to age 17.
The GTHL is the largest minor hockey league in the world.
Proponents of the ban said they don't like body-checking for players who likely won't make it to the big leagues.
"We certainly encourage the [Ontario Hockey Federation] and Hockey Canada to follow suit and take this issue to the next level," said Frank Carbone, president of the Duffield Devils.
Others say getting a little rough is a big part of the game.
"My concern is when kids — if they go from A-hockey to AA-hockey — the kids are bigger and there's a safety concern," said Rick Crumpton, general manager of the Toronto City Blues. "The kids are bigger and there's a concern about being exposed to body-checking for the first time at age 14 or 15."
Body-checking was banned at the peewee level, where players are under 13, in 2013 by Hockey Canada following similar moves by Hockey Alberta and Hockey Nova Scotia.