As hockey proponents await a pivotal Calgary vote on minor-league bodychecking, a representative with the provincial governance body said more parents are advocating for a contact-free offering of the game.
“We’re finding that new families are looking for choices in the game, in terms of commitment and style of play,” said Mike Olesen, senior manager of operations and administration for Hockey Alberta. “It’s not just mainstream, cookie-cutter hockey anymore.”
But while members with Hockey Calgary will vote on a bodychecking ban in peewee hockey starting next season and bans in subsequent years for bantam and midget hockey, President Todd Millar was quick to point out that hitting won’t be removed from practice.
A recommendation has also been made by the board of governors to maintain hitting in an elite hockey stream, generally reserved for athletes who have eyes on continuing to play into their collegiate years.
Olesen said concerns have been raised by parents and certain groups that Calgary will put itself on an island of sorts if the ban is approved, especially when it comes to playing in out-of-city tournaments and provincial championships.
Millar said his organization is open to continued discussion about how a bodycheck-free game will fit in Alberta’s hockey mould going forward.
“There’s no question that it continues to be a topic that ranks right up with religion and politics,” Millar said, adding Hockey Calgary’s non-contact recreational hockey stream has grown steadily since being introduced five years ago.
“There are more and more environments that are non-bodychecking, so parents will always have the decision,” he added.
- There were nearly 1,200 kids registered in Hockey Calgary’s peewee hockey programs this past season.
- Studies indicate body-checking is a factor in up to 86 per cent of hockey injuries.