A rule instituted by USA Hockey allows for body contact, but eliminated body checking for this age group. When the rule was announced there were plenty of opinions on how things would go . . . So, after nearly a full season of play, how are things going?
“I’m hearing very good reactions from across the country,” said Kevin McLaughlin, the director of youth hockey at USA Hockey.
“In both talking with parents and players, as well as watching many games at various levels of Peewees, there are a lot of very positive results occurring.”
Jason Kelley coaches the Osseo-Maple Grove Peewee A team, one of the top teams in the state. Kelley says the new rule has forced players to learn to skate through the hands of opponents and to keep their feet moving while competing for the puck. For the most part officials have allowed body contact as long as the players are moving their feet and competing for the puck. Once a player stops moving his feet, doesn’t attempt to play the puck and instead only uses his body, is when Kelley has seen penalties called.
McLaughlin points to several key areas including:
⇒ A more aggressive style of play
⇒ More physicality, but without the big, intimidating hits
⇒ More offensive puck possession (less ping-pong hockey
where players simply “slap” the puck away)
⇒ More offensive plays being attempted
⇒ More good defensive play – moving feet to defend,
good angling, stick on puck, etc.
⇒ Very few “blow-up” hits that leave players injured and laying on ice
⇒ Fewer coaches screaming at refs about calls
⇒ Fewer parents screaming at refs and other teams
“I don’t think it has had the effect I was expecting, and I’m actually surprised by this,” says Kelley. “Our bigger and more aggressive players don’t have a problem playing the puck instead of the body. Going into the season I thought this was going to be a big adjustment, especially for the returning players. Also, for our first year and smaller players, they are able to carry the puck with confidence and compete against the larger and stronger players. Our coaches are very happy with how the kids have responded to the rule and adjusted their game.”
USA Hockey National Coach-in-Chief Mike MacMillan has heard similar reports from across the country. “I’d say overall the response has been very positive,” says MacMillian. “Heading into the season there were many questions about how this would play out and right now, after nearly a full season of practices and games, I’d say players, coaches and officials have adjusted very well to the change and we have seen an increase of both speed and skills.”
Former NHLer and Rochester native Doug Zmolek agrees. “So far I really enjoy the change,” says Zmolek. “No more rock’em, sock’em, knee on knee, hands to the facemask, 30-foot runs at guys, etc… just good, hard, fast hockey.
“The refs [seem to understand how to call this new rule], and let the body (through the hands) contact go. The checking had gotten out of control and who knows, maybe this will bring back checking to the way it was suppose to be? Play through the hands and lower body to impede progress toward the net. Think of the great skating skills our kids have the potential to develop if we have to control another player with correct body position. This new rule is on the right track!”
Tag(s): February 2012