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Goalies can't go to the team's bench during a break in play unless they're being replaced by another goaltender. ((Kevin Light/CBCSports))

Have a question about minor hockey? Ask the Experts.  

Our Game senior writer, minor hockey coach and player Kristina Rutherford will be fielding questions with the help of hockey experts from across the country.

To Ask the Experts, send your questions to  kristina.rutherford@cbc.ca, and we'll field them as they come in.

Q: I was told a penalty can be assessed to a goaltender if he goes to his bench during a stoppage of play, for example as a result of a scrum between players at the other end of the ice, while the refs were figuring out penalties. The goalie did not have to cross the blueline as our bench doors were about 15 feet inside of it. He was thirsty and came to the bench for a drink. Is this a penalty? Steve, house league coach, Trenton, Ont.

A: We referred to our trusty referee's guide on this one, and also consulted with Caise Chandler, a referee in chief in Nepean, B.C. The answer is unanimous: It's a penalty. Two minutes for delay of game.

Who knew being thirsty was a crime? 

Before we get into the actual rule in the rulebook — the jargon — we'll give you the quick answer: A goalie can't go to the player's bench at any time during a stoppage of play unless he or she is being replaced by a substitute goalie. No water, no skating over because you're bored, nothing.

The obvious solution here is to make sure your goalie has a water bottle on top of the net.  

Now for the jargon. It's Rule 3.1 in the book — Adjustment of Equipment, section 'c':

'A goaltender may not delay the game unnecessarily to adjust his equipment, during a stoppage of play, unless he has received permission from the referee and remains in the goal area. If a goaltender goes to the player's bench to adjust any equipment he shall retire from the ice and his place shall be taken by the alternate goaltender, and no warm-up will be permitted. However, this would only apply where an alternate goaltender is dressed. The alternate goaltender must remain in the game until play resumes. For a violation of this rule, a minor penalty for delay of game shall be assessed.'

After the story went up, Our Game also got this input from NCAA referee, Rick Prochaska: "If goalies were allowed to go to the bench whenever they wanted, there would be a steady stream causing unnecessary delays of the game, intentional or unintentional. This may seem harsh for younger players, but the same rulebook applies for all age groups. If a water bottle is not available on the net then there's nothing wrong with a player bringing the goalie a bottle during a stoppage."

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Our Game expert Kim McCullough says the game is about skill, and she sees no problem with boys and girls playing body contact hockey together. ((Kevin Light/CBC Sports))

Q: What do you think of juvenile players playing in midget house league where body contact is part of the game and girls also play in the league? There are 14 girls paying in the league of 105 players, and the age difference is from 15-20 years of age. Steve, house league coach, Trenton, Ont.

A:  Our female hockey expert Kim McCullough  is going to tackle this one.

Here's what Kim had to say:

"I see no problem with the girls playing in midget house league with the boys if it is body contact only. I can see how some parents might be concerned about differences in relative size and strength levels, but once you take body checking out of the equation, it really just comes down to skill levels. 

"The only potential issue I could see is that the male players take some sort of exception to the fact that the female players are out there with them.  But with over 10 per cent of the league being female, it doesn't necessarily seem that it would be a big issue.  If the girls feel comfortable out there and are able to play at the level needed to compete with the boys, I say let them play."

Read a related blog: Men coaching women

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In Quebec, the maximum number of players allowed on a minor hockey team is 19, which can really cut down ice time for players. ((Bruce Bennett/Getty Images))

Q: My son is on one of two Peewee B teams that has 15 skaters and 2 goaltenders. This sometimes results in players getting only 2-3 shifts per period.  This is not the coach's fault, just a result of what I think are too many players per team.

Are there association guidelines for minimum and maximum number of players per team at the various levels, and if so what are they? Many parents for both teams felt a third team should have been made even if it meant a recruiting drive to find 2-3 more players to "complete" a team.  Bill Maslen, Saint-Lazare, QC

A: The maximum cap on any minor league team in Quebec is 19 players including goalies. No team can have more than 19 players on a roster, but it's not often you'll find a team with that many. 

An official with Hockey Quebec informed us most teams operate under the cap, but it's as high as it is in case teams run into injuries or have players who stop showing up.

There's also a minimum number of players any 'single letter' team is allowed to carry in Quebec. Any A, B or C team in any category, including Peewee, must have a minimum nine players, including goaltenders.

If you wanted to campaign for a third team, you'd have to approach your hockey association's regional bureau and make a case to them. If they felt the request was reasonable, the bureau would approach Hockey Quebec, which would make the final decision.

Clearly if both Peewee B teams are 17 players strong, you could have a good case here. If many parents and players aren't happy with ice time, this is something to look into for next season. A recruiting drive to find a few more players for that third team would make your case that much stronger.  

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If your son isn't seeing much ice-time during the playoffs, teach him to be a support player, says sports psychologist, Cal Botterill. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Q: Playoffs have started and my son has barely seen the ice. What should I do? Rene, Antigonish, N.S.

A: Our Game expert Cal Botterill, a sports psychologist at the University of Manitoba, is going to field this one.

Here's what Cal had to say:

"This is a tough situation for the parent, but unless there has been discussion about "playing time" ahead of time, I believe the best response is to help your child be a great "support player."

Support players play a critical role on championship teams. They should prepare as if they are playing, and mentally play the game on the bench in the skates of the player in their position. This can help your child stay ready if needed, and keep them developing as a player and a person.

Playing this role effectively can be an important experience for your child, and it can make a big difference to the team. Players on the team feel their teammates seeing/feeling solutions, being ready, and encouraging them.

These are important skills in sport, and in life. These skills have helped players and people go on to greatness.

On the other hand, every parent has the right to enquire about the program's philosophy and playing time at the start of the season. Even if the players are given input at the start of the season, they usually suggest fairly equal ice time during the season — but, it's coach's choice for playoffs.

In fairness to parents and kids, everyone should know the philosophy and plan at the start of the season.

Most importantly, be there for your child, to help them cope, feel part of things, and grow."

For more on this topic, read Playoffs and the shortened bench by Our Game 's Brian Hancock.

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Summer hockey isn't a requirement for kids to keep their skills up, and can result in burnout. ((Kevin Light/CBC Sports))

Q: My son plays AAA hockey from Sept to April. Does he need to play spring and summer hockey to keep his skills up?  Jo-Ann, Belle River, Ont.

A: If your son isn't one of those kids who never wants to take his skates off, and if he's not begging you to play summer hockey, don't force it.

He should be playing other sports he likes during the off-season, and whatever sport that may be, chances are it'll help his hockey game and make him a more well-rounded athlete. He doesn't need to play hockey all year to "keep his skills up."

A little time off will also mean he's excited about hockey when the season starts up again, and that's important. Burnout is huge in hockey these days, especially with the time commitment and pressure that comes with playing at the elite level, as your son does. Just because it's possible to play 365 days a year doesn't mean your son should. 

The Great One agrees with us on this one. Wayne Gretzky played baseball and lacrosse growing up, and he's always been an advocate of kids participating in a variety of sports. Here's what the NHL's all-time leading scorer had to say: 

"Each sport helps the other sport," says Gretzky. "And then I think taking time off in the off-season — that three- or four-month window — really rejuvenates kids so when they come back at the end of August, they're more excited. They think, 'All right, hockey's back, I'm ready to go.'"

Check out a blog on off-ice training  by Our Game expert, Kim McCullough, who says you don't need to hit the ice in the off-season to improve your skills.

Have a question of your own? Send it, along with your name and hometown, to kristina.rutherford@cbc.ca.