Non-contact hockey league closing after 7 years

For seven years it offered kids a less bruising version of Canada's favourite pastime. But the Toronto Non-Contact Hockey League says this season will be its last.

Toronto-area league led the charge to take body-checking out of the game

Bill Robertson was one of a group of parents who founded the Toronto Non-Contact Hockey League in 2009, touting a faster, smarter and 'higher ideal' of the game. (CBC)

For seven years it offered kids a less bruising version of Canada's favourite pastime. But the Toronto Non-Contact Hockey League says this season will be its last. 

And that's partly, according to co-founder Bill Robertson, because it was so successful. 

The league was "a victim of our own success," Robertson said Monday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning, in that other organizations eventually followed its lead by taking body-checking out of the game. The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) recently banned body-checking in its A-level games, and Hockey Canada banned it from all pee-wee hockey in 2013. 

"I think we had an impact. A lot of people said we had an impact," Robertson said. 

"I wouldn't say it was just us, but we did it in the biggest market in the country." 

Organizers had, at one point, asked the GTHL and its neighbour, the North York Hockey League, to ban body-checking. 

Back then, Robertson said, "everybody said it was a good idea but nobody was willing to do it because, I think, of inertia." 

That, and the belief among some that if players are not giving and taking hard hits they're not really playing hockey. 

"I think for some people it is a fundamental part of the game. I think for me and a lot of people, it's not," he said. 

The league touted a version of hockey that was faster, smarter, more respectful and which aimed for a "higher ideal" of the game. There were three teams when the league formed in 2009, and 13 when it peaked. 

The lesson for children, Robertson said, is to do what you think is right. 

The league was at one point "outlawed" by Hockey Canada, he said, but "at some point the rebels have to stand up and do something." 

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