The Canadian Hockey Association's board of directors voted Monday to change the age categories through all levels of minor hockey starting in the 2002-03 season.

"I'm very pleased with the patience and methodical approach we took to making this key decision for hockey in Canada," CHA chairman of the board Wayne Russell said at the CHA's annual general meeting.

The age category change comes one year after the motion was tabled at last year's meeting, when the CHA membership requested more time to review the proposal and gather feedback from constituents across the country.

The changes begin in the novice division, which will include only eight-year-olds under the new system as opposed to eight- and nine-year-olds.

Nine-year-old players will join the atom division, which will feature players nine and 10 years old instead of 10 and 11.

Each age group progresses in a similar fashion, ending with midget, which will include players 15, 16 and 17 years of age instead of just 16- and 17-year-olds.

The new age groups are as follows:

  • Midget: 15, 16, 17 years old -- changed from 16 and 17.

  • Bantam: 13, 14 years old -- changed from 14 and 15.

  • Peewee: 11, 12 years old -- changed from 12 and 13.

  • Atom: nine and 10 years old -- changed from 10 and 11.

  • Novice: eight years old -- changed from eight and nine.

  • Pre-novice: seven years old and under -- changed from six and seven.

    "These changes to minor hockey were based on a number of factors, including players' physical, psychological and social development," Russell said.

    The CHA's annual general meeting concludes Tuesday afternoon.