Half-ice, full price: Some Calgary hockey parents upset over new rule

Some hockey parents in Calgary are upset after a change in rules mandated that their kids will be playing on half a rink, but paying the same in ice fees.

Hockey Canada mandated kids under 9 will have to play on half the rink

Robin Steinwand is unhappy with the change from Hockey Canada. (CBC)

Some hockey parents in Calgary are upset after a change in rules mandated that their kids will be playing on half a rink, but paying the same in ice fees. 

Hockey Canada mandated that all hockey players under age nine will play their games on half the ice rink by the 2019/2020 season.

"I think its going to slow their development down and prevent them from learning a lot of key points in hockey," said Robin Steinwand, a mother to four kids, three of whom play hockey.

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"Like how to play their positions properly, how to use the boards and work together as a team on their lineups ... I think what they're losing is bigger than how to battle for the puck in a small space."

Matt Sartoris, a dad to five and seven-year-old hockey players, said he's "frustrated more than anything."

"All I know is there are some kids on the novice team that are already 100, 110 pounds and space gets pretty limited with some of those big kids out there," he said.

Matt Sartoris is frustrated by changes imposed by Hockey Canada that will see his kids playing on half-ice, instead of the full rink. (CBC)

Hockey Canada said the smaller space will allow kids to touch the puck more often, gain better stick control and sharpen their movements. 

"Believe it or not, and I think this is where people have to have faith in the system, even better players in their age group will benefit from being in an environment where they can't skate away from their competition but they have to control the puck in a smaller space," said Paul Carson of Hockey Canada.

Some parents have said the cost should drop, but Hockey Calgary said that will all depend on how the ice gets split up. 

Kevin Kobelka of Hockey Calgary said the organization is leaning toward keeping it to two teams on the ice at one time — each team will split in half, so there would be no reduction in cost, unlike if four teams played on the ice at once (two teams per game).

The organization has yet to decide whether it will get an early start on the transition this season, or wait until next year.

"No matter what we do, whether it's body checking, whether it's half-ice hockey, whether it's structures of different leagues, every time we create change there's people that like it and there's people that dislike it. At the end of the day we hope we are doing the best thing for the kids," Kobelka said.

Parents watch their children play hockey at an arena in Calgary. (CBC)

"My initial reaction was I don't like it," said David Denholm, who is a hockey coach and a father to four kids who play the game.

But then he realized the smaller ice size was helping some kids on the team improve their skills.

"I think an ideal solution is probably the top two divisions, three play full ice and the others don't, but how do you say some kids do, some kids don't?"

As for whether or not it's a good move, he said he's still undecided.

"There will be a learning curve for them in the next level of their progression to learn positions they haven't spent time playing in that full-ice game, but I think in the long run you're going to have players with higher skill level than strictly skating," he said.

With files from Colleen Underwood