Pee Wee Checking Debate Renewed As Vote Nears

It’s been some time since my last post on the topic of the proposed rule to delay body checking until the Bantam level. As we are a month away from USA Hockey’s Annual Congress, at which the rule will be voted on, it is important to be armed with as much knowledge on this topic as possible.

If you’ve read my previous posts, found here and here, you’ll know that I am behind the proposed change 100%. I wasn’t always there though, and I think for some people it’s a hard thing to get behind. However, when a proposal like this is made, it’s incredibly important to get as much information as possible before forming an opinion.

After the jump, I’ve got a few more thoughts on the proposed rule change and feature a few new resources to better educate yourself on this topic.

USA Hockey Magazine has put together a series of podcasts regarding this very topic. During the series, the magazine’s editor, Harry Thompson, interviews USA Hockey insiders with intimate knowledge of the proposed plan. Each podcast covers a different aspect of the proposed rule change and answers pretty much all of the pertinent questions.

From talking to hockey insiders, hockey parents, coaches and players, along with comments on this blog, I’ve heard and read tons of questions, concerns and complaints. Almost all of those get addressed in these podcasts.

While the magazine is an arm of USA Hockey, Thompson has asked the questions we’ve all been asking ourselves since this proposed change became public. As far as I’m concerned, these podcasts may be the best informational tool USA Hockey has made available to date.

I strongly recommend to everyone who has any opinion on this proposed rule change to listen to these podcasts. Heck, take notes even.

There are three episodes of the podcast that have yet to be released, but what I’ve gathered from the nine I listened to has only strengthened my belief that this proposed rule change is a step forward for USA Hockey.

Thompson’s two interviews with Kevin McLaughlin, USA Hockey’s senior director of hockey development, are particularly informative. In the first, McLaughlin gives a comprehensive background of how this proposal came about and why it is being promoted. The second allows McLaughlin to dispel the “myths” regarding the rule and directly answers questions that have been asked repeatedly by opponents of this rule change.

Another incredibly informative and enthralling episode of the podcast is Thompson’s chat with Dr. Michael Stuart, USA Hockey’s chief medical officer. Stuart talks about the safety issues of this rule and provides insight from his background as both a doctor and a hockey parent (his son, Mark, plays for the Atlanta Thrashers and is currently Team USA’s captain at the IIHF World Men’s Championship).

I also particularly enjoyed Thompson’s segment with Bob Mancini, an American Development Model regional manager who has been involved in hockey at just about every level from mite to the NHL. Mancini has been one of the driving forces behind this rule change proposal and offers great insight into why he feels it is necessary.

Many questions have been asked about how officials will handle the rule change. Matt Leaf, USA Hockey’s director of officiating education, brings up the great points that USA Hockey officials deal with rule changes every two years and that the vast majority of amateur hockey is no-check already. In a second podcast, Leaf covers the difference between body contact and body checking from a rules perspective.

Lastly, I found director of coaching education Mark Tabrum’s interview with Thompson to be really informative and it brought some new information to light. Tabrum revealed that USA Hockey-certified coaches will have to complete age-specific modules in addition to attending certification clinics. This is an important development in how coaches will be taught to develop players at the younger levels with the new rules.

Also, be sure to check out the podcasts featuring Roger Grillo (skill development aspects of the rule change), Ken Rausch (teaching checking and body contact technique), which both offer some great insight from a coaching perspective, and the three upcoming podcasts which should all be released very soon.

Change is hard. Based on what I’ve read from many of the folks that commented on my last posts on this topic, it’s going to be really hard for some people. The fact of the matter is, this is a chance for USA Hockey to do something that could revolutionize the way we are developing our young players.

Having spent a year in the national office and having spoken to many of the subjects of these podcasts in the past, I can tell you that these people genuinely want to make the game better. Delaying body checking to Bantam will help our players make better decisions with the puck, create more opportunity for skill development, protect our younger players, keep more kids in the game longer, and if all goes as planned, improve the overall depth of talent in the United States.

I welcome all comments on this topic, however, I ask that you first listen to the podcasts before weighing in, so as to fully inform yourself. The podcasts cover the topic far more comprehensively and eloquently than I ever could, so be sure to check them out before hitting the comments section.

Also, I’m curious to know, has your opinion on this topic changed, one way or another, since our first post on this topic? If so, why? Feel free to leave your answers in the comments.

As this is a very heated topic, please try to keep your comments respectful of others. Thanks!

I’d expect to have at least one more post up before the June vote should any new developments, studies, or arguments arise. We’ll also have a complete reaction to the outcome of the vote after it is made public. This is a hot-button issue in youth hockey, but it could have an enormous long-term effect on the game as a whole. It should be interesting to follow.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
This entry was posted in Grow the Game, USA Hockey, Youth Hockey. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Pee Wee Checking Debate Renewed As Vote Nears

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am just wondering since this is coming up for a vote in June where is the information on why we shouldn’t pass this. All the information, or should I say propaganda, that USA Hockey has put everywhere is on one side of this issue. I would be happy to present a study and write a piece on the other side of this issue. Do you think USA Hockey would put that on their website? I don’t think so. Why even have a vote? It’s like the Soviet Union have a vote with one choice.

    The whole process has been embarrassing and hardly worth discussing it’s passing.

    • Chris Peters says:

      I don’t think the process is embarrassing at all.

      First off, USA Hockey’s staff feels strongly that this should pass and are suggesting to those voting at the Annual Congress that this is needed. Since it is a suggestion they feel strongly about, USA Hockey’s staff is pleading its case for the reason to make the rule. As someone who has been trying to gobble up as much info as I can on this topic, I’ve found that the evidence overwhelmingly favors USA Hockey’s position.

      The people who work for USA Hockey are hired to find ways to improve the game. When they feel they have a new rule that will help, it is presented to the USA Hockey membership and is voted on by the officials selected by each district. While it would be nice to have the information readily available, it is not a USA Hockey employee’s job to explain both sides of the case. It is their job to promote the one the organization feels best serves its membership. Let’s also not forget that an open forum, in which proponents of both sides take the floor and plead their case as voting members, is held prior to the vote. It’s not like only one side will be heard, unless the voter base is content with the rule as is unanimously, of course.

      USAH Magazine is to have a podcast where Ron DeGregorio covers how the vote works and what the process will be, by the way.

      I believe it will pass, but its not for a lack of information. It will pass because the evidence and reasoning strongly indicate it should.

  2. Dan says:

    If they go ahead with the vote I hope they know what they are doing. We just can back from a tourny in Canada, when we were there is when they had their vote. They took checking out of all youth hockey all the way up. That’s the way it should be. Canada NEVER discussed Travel only took it out of House and House select. If we do take it out we will be so far behind it’s not funny. USA Hockey better think hard about this one, if they do remove it I hope they grandfather Pee Wee second year. If USA Hockey ignores this and makes it all Pee Wee they could be opening themselves up. Alot of their research covers at the first year of checking they see a spike and then watch it drop in the second year when the novelty dies down (seriously it isn’t training it’s what most of these kids are waiting for!). Hope they don’t consider putting 99’s threw that cycle twice that would be very irresponsible and really opening themselves up.
    As an article as the vote came in Canada ” these kids chose to play hockey for the checking as kids who chose football do for tackling, it’s a physical full contact sport”.
    THINK HARD ABOUT THIS ONE BOYS! Let’s not be irresponsible with the 99’s.
    MY VOTE: keep it in Travel A,AA,AAA take it out of house so kids and parents have a choice. Same as in Ontario.

    • Chris Peters says:

      “THINK HARD ABOUT THIS ONE BOYS!”

      — To be honest, I think every article I’ve written has proven that the BOYS have thought and are thinking hard about this one to make sure it gets done right. If they hadn’t presented their case as comprehensively and intelligently as they have, I might not be as defensive of this position. They’ve clearly done their homework and do not take this decision at all lightly.

      Some kids are going to be disappointed that they can’t hit, but I honestly don’t think it will effect their enjoyment of the game one bit. I think the numbers will show that, too. Also, taking the checking out of travel would defeat the entire purpose of this rule change. By removing the BIG HITS (not all contact, but intimidating or overly-aggressive physical plays), it will allow the more talented kids to continue to improve on that talent. Meanwhile, it gives the house players or less competitive players a chance to flourish without the worry of getting creamed or focus on destroying an opponent.

      If we see more fundamentally sound players coming out of Pee Wees, I think the game will only benefit. That’s my honest opinion.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I will again post this article from the NY Times that cites a study that shows bodychecking starting at 13 years old actually shows the same number of injuries, but that those injuries are more serious. The size difference between 13 year olds is much greater than those of 11 year olds, which leads to much bigger kids hitting much smaller kids none of whom will have learned how to handle body contact.

    http://slapshot.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/05/researchers-evaluate-who-is-old-enough-for-body-checks/

    I don’t think the staff at USA Hockey is always right, these are the same people that have brought us no tag up offsides, which outside of Colorado Springs is viewed as crazy. The ADM program they came up with has an over 50% dropout rate nationwide, they will never publish that but its true. In the end little kids want to play games. USA Hockey has won numerous medals in the last few years, many of them gold. All of those players came up in the current system, if it aint broke don’t fix it!

    No other country plays the no-tag up offsides rule. The only other place that we can compare to with the no-check rule is Quebec, an area that everyone would agree has been on a downslide of player development in the last 15 years. Look at the NHL Draft the OHL and WHL have many more kids drafted than the QMJHL every year. Sadly soon to be the USA.

    • Chris Peters says:

      I’ve read that article many times. I think it’s findings are interesting. However, that article does not account for the increased body contact from the mite level on up. The rule is taking the big, punishing hits out of the game, while teaching players how to angle and use their body in a much more productive way to get the puck. So to say that none of them will have learned how to handle body contact is flawed already.

      The size difference has always been a part of bantams. This was addressed in the second Kevin McLaughlin the podcast as well. You can listen to that for a better explanation.

      On no tag offsides, you talk about all these medals we’ve won. All of these players have been playing no-tag offsides as youth players. Additionally, I don’t get where you’re getting the 50% dropout rate on the ADM. Please don’t present something as fact unless you have the evidence to back it up. The ADM has been lauded by the NHL for what it is doing for youth hockey in this country.

      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but if you can make it better, you should.

      • Anonymous says:

        No players on the Olympic team played the new offsides, it only came about 5 years ago. I was just trying to make the point that is obvious to everyone that it is a silly rule and the same people who pushed that silly rule are pushing this one. Did they play that rule at the Olympics or world junior, of course not. If its so good for the game how come we are the only ones using it?

        Unfortunately I can not give you concrete proof here today about the ADM dropout rate, but I know people in the NHL who have seen USA Hockeys internal numbers indicating the dropout rate. You don’t see them publishing a retention rate do you, wonder why?

        I am curious Chris is there ahy USA Hockey decisions you don’t support? I support a number of decisions, like the development of the NTDP. I understand your hesitancy to answer that question given that the former referee in chief of 20 years was fired after he opposed the tag up rule change 5 years ago. Thats how things work

      • Chris Peters says:

        I could be wrong, but I think no-touch offsides has been in youth hockey since I was a Pee Wee. I remember when it was implemented. Sure it was unpopular, but you know what it does? It forces our players to make different decisions in the neutral zone, which is a skill they’ll need to acquire. I’m not a huge fan of no-touch, but I know why it was implemented and I don’t see it as detracting from the youth game at all.

        I don’t know who you know in the NHL, but by all accounts I have heard, the NHL is happy with the progress, hence the money it gives USA Hockey to implement such player-development initiatives. If the retention rate is in fact poor, keep in mind we’re seeing an unprecedented number of NEW youth hockey players. Not every one of them will stay, but more and more kids are picking up hockey than ever before.

        I’m not at all hesitant to answer the question about rules I don’t support. There was a proposal that failed in 2009 of taking away a shorthanded team’s ability to ice the puck without penalty. I didn’t like that one, though the thought behind it was similar to that of no-touch offside. I felt that was a rule that kind of was “over-thinking it” just a little bit. Obviously, the voter base felt the same way.

        However, as a former employee of the company, I have seen how these proposals come about. We’re talking hours upon hours, years upon years of dissecting every angle, going over every possible outcome. Of any of the rule proposals USA Hockey has made over the years, this is by far the biggest. As such, the leg work done on it has been extensive. With the evidence they’ve provided and the studies to back much of it up, I see no reason why this shouldn’t happen.

        I will say that I think it’s fair to question my positions on USA Hockey, but know that above all, I love the game. This is a move that I feel benefits the game in our country, not just the governing body.

  4. Dan says:

    Chris…. KEEP DRINKING THE KOOLADE!!… Touch up offsides robs the kids of a good 10+ minutes of ice time evey game… What’s the big decision that the kids make? I have an out and can just send it offsides get a whistle…PLEASE ADM needs to be worrying more about ice time not whistle time. As far as the checking issue I don’t know of ANYONE who thinks this is a good idea. Small kids need to learn to be elusive not just dangle through their legs. It’s better at an early age than later. It’s not about the dangle it’s about working as a team. As far as advanced body contact their is no such thing, angling, rubbing, and pinning are presently part of the game in a NON CHECK division, body contact has always been there, the word advanced is just a slight of hand. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a choice because some kids can’t check and probably never will if they have that fear. You can’t teach someone to get over that. I will repeat follow OYHL and make house levels non-check and leave travel alone. You will lose people because leagues here are looking to join Canadian leagues and pick up their own insurance. They see how far behind any prospects will be if this goes through. Checking is a huge part of the game if you don’t want to admit it.
    DON’T DRINK IT CHRIS!!! or are you serving it!…I’m beginning to wonder.

    • Chris Peters says:

      Dan, thanks for the chuckle. I’m not drinking anything, however you may want to remove your tinfoil hat. Slight of hand? Seriously?

      Anyways… You might not know ANYONE that thinks its a good rule. I do. Not just USA Hockey employees, but youth hockey parents, coaches and players. If you’re honestly going to pull your kid out of the hockey league with the friends and teammates he’s made over the years because you don’t like a rule, that’s great. There will be thousands more that stay. I don’t think taking body checking out of pee wee is going to make most kids like the game any less than they do right now.

      There’s probably a reason the same two people keep posting in the comments. There is a passionate minority that hates this rule and are incredibly vocal, which I think they should be. There are two sides to every argument. However, most other people are keeping an open mind and seeing what happens. I have no problem with letting the people who work in hockey 24/7 make the decisions they feel are going to make the game better. You don’t have to buy what they’re selling, but I think you may want to do a little more research so as to better express your point.

  5. dan says:

    Chris,
    I’m not talking about one kid I’m talking about whole organizations. I coach two teams in two organizations and still have the same response. The reason why its the same people is because no one knows about this website, I found it by accident. Post this board on USA Hockey website and see what happens. You know what would happen.

    • Chris Peters says:

      I know exactly what would happen. There has been a fair amount of backlash to every rule change. The people that are against it are vocal, the people that are content with it are content to keep quiet.

      Change is hard for people, Dan. That’s why there is resistance. The vast majority of people are not going to educate themselves on the topic, and therefore will have ignorant opinions on it. That’s why there are district leaders that are selected to make the decisions they feel best serve their district’s affiliates. Which is exactly why this rule will pass.

  6. Chris Peters says:

    This video was brought to my attention… Take a look at what current NCAA coaches have to say about this rule change.

    http://usahockey.cachefly.net/NCAACoachesBodyCheckingProposal.wmv

    None of them work for USA Hockey and as far as I can tell gave their honest opinion on the potential rule change.

  7. Steve H. says:

    Really, any discussion is moot, particularly if one disagrees with USA Hockey on this matter. They’re going to ram this through no matter what. They found some doctors to make the case that kids get concussions (so do adults, so hopefully the NHL sees fit to “move checking” to players 35+…just to be safe)and are going to their knee-jerk response of shoving the inevitable concussion for some kids until 2 years later.

    Opposition voices can speak up all they want but USA Hockey and the rule supporters really don’t give a darn. This vote is already passed.

  8. Dan says:

    Just watched the video from the NCAA coaches. Everyone talks about the angling aspect of the game, as a coach we have taught that progression in the two years that they were in squirts. We have taught our kids angling, rubbing, corner puck battles, infront of the net battles, and pinning in those two years as squirts. That is the advanced body contact that is in the rule books and on all USA Hockey videos. Our kids were ready to take that next step to the checking level. We had to be because we play alot of Canadian teams. ADM should be looking at their coaches and making sure that these steps are being taken. If this wasn’t done through squirts it won’t be done by the same coaches in PeeWee levels either. This is just a knee jerk reaction. I’ve done alot of researsh and presently doing a thesis on this subject. Bottomline is of all injuries studied 66.0% are unintentional injuries (collisions just like Sid the Kid), 34.0% intentional (Matt Cooke types are lumped in here which has nothing to do with checking), (Darling Dr. Scott, UB). Alot has to do actual hours on ice, that falls back on coaching, checking should be taught 2 hands on the stick and the blade on the ice not what the kids see on the highlights on Youtube of the higher levels of leading with your hands.

    • Chris Peters says:

      Dan, thanks for the comment. I took everything into account that you said and I think you’ve got some great points for the other side of the argument. The thing I don’t agree with is that this is a “knee-jerk reaction.” I really don’t see it that way at all. As I’ve said many times, this has been in talks for the last few years and that every angle of this thing has been looked at by the powers that be.

      As for accidental contact, I think the biggest thing to remember is that the risk of injury is greater due to the fact that players at this age are not able, cognitively, to prepare for a body check and protect themselves. There will always be accidental injuries, but by taking away 34% of injuries due to intentional hits (per the study you cite) in Pee Wee hockey is still pretty darn good.

      Also, take into account the skill development aspects of the rule. Body checking is a skill, but if we know the players can’t cognitively anticipate hits and the 11-year-old brain is more susceptible to concussions and therefore repeated instances of concussions, why allow it? Especially when we know that at least 34% of injuries in hockey were due to intentional hits. I’d rather see our Pee Wee players focusing on skills that their brain allows them to acquire, such as better stick handling, shooting and passing technique, etc.

      I’m glad to hear that your teams are teaching the squirts how to angle already. Take a listen to Mark Tabrum’s podcast to hear about how coaches are going to be tough to deal with this rule change. That should help address the other issues.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Chris, I sent you an email a while ago and got no response. It was about what the ADM really is and how it is supposed to run. One of the leagues in question was the NIHL, a league which I understand is not sanctioned by USAH. Does anyone think that there will be a division in the sport of hockey with the now rule change?

    • Chris Peters says:

      Sorry I didn’t respond in a timely manner. I’ve still been trying to get back to emails from when I was away for a while. I’ll address your ADM question in the email… however for the second part of your question.

      If I’m not mistaken, all of the teams involved in NIHL, are still USA Hockey registered teams, as they also compete in other USAH-sanctioned leagues and are eligible for USA Hockey national championships.

      I know that there are going to be and currently are many people divided on this topic, however I do not feel that this will cause teams or organizations to leave USA Hockey. The insurance is number one. If people are willing to take their own insurance policies out just because they want their kids to body check at ages 11 and 12, then I guess that’s their prerogative. I don’t foresee a mass exodus due to the rule change, though.

  10. gb says:

    I just glanced through some of these and agree with Anonymous and Steve H.
    Anyone who disagrees with USA Hockey or has a different factual point or opinion is not nor will not be heard or spoken to. It is truely a dictatorship !!! I sent an email to Kevin MacLaughlin and Ogrean. Similiar to the topics brought forward here with Chris Peters… and they are all drinking the cool aid!!!! He never addressed any of the questions I had or suggestions…etc. The board at USA Hockey won’t even listen!!
    Too bad we couldn’t opt out of being forced to join USA Hockey every year.

  11. Kirsten says:

    Hockey Mom here.

    I heard about this proposal during the close of my son’s 2nd year of Squirt play. While he is of slight build, he has been looking forward to checking in PeeWee this coming year. However, while he was playing up this spring, to assist a very undermanned PeeWee team that his best friend plays on, he did receive one of the ugliest hits from behind that sent him into the boards headfirst which several dads on our team claimed they had ever seen. (As an aside, the player delivering that hit was suspended from the next game). Fortunately this has not reduced his love of the sport nor his bold play.

    My feeling is that the current system of “checking clinics” is flawed. They do need more practice at giving and receiving contact along the way than the periodic hour long clinic. If the proposal truly does introduce more practice with giving and receiving body contact during play and practice over an extended period, I am all for it.

    I also believe that I’ve seen more damage from accidental contact during Squirt play (sliding in to one another or not being able to stop) than I did when a check that would be considered legal at the older levels was given.

    From direct experience – it is possible for a player to practice checking and then remember not to apply it in play. We had three squirts on our house and select team who played up to PeeWee for half the year. For the most part, after the first reminder, they were able to restrain their desire to check during Squirt games and check legally during PeeWee games (some of which were on the same day).

    I accept that this is a high contact sport. And I support legal checks and body contact. What I would like to see removed is the “dirty” check with the “kill the opponent” attitude where the player being checked never sees it coming and doesn’t have an opportunity to prepare his or her body.

    I would also like to see more consistency by the referees regarding the contact. It is harder on players when in one game they can get away with incidental body contact and in another game every time they turn around the whistle blows.

    In short, I do support the USA Hockey proposal to delay body checking until Bantam as long as they can better teach body contact along the way.

    Cheers, K

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hockey checking should start at mite

Comments are closed.