To body check or not

There appear to be two distinct sides in the debate over Hockey Alberta’s decision to ban body checking for peewee aged players.

On one hand, the safety of the players is ground zero and there is no doubting the evidence showing the damage done to these young brains when they suffer a concussion.

The other side of the coin presents a case whereby if the young players are taught very early how to properly throw and take a body check, then the concussion numbers won’t nearly be as high.

The move to ban the checking has prompted a defense by the movers of the plan and an offense (and sometimes angry attack) by those who claim the rule makers are removing an essential part of the game. One tweet claimed we are making our hockey players into sissies. That’s a little overboard.

I’m all for keeping kids safe when it comes to concussions, especially because we are learning so much more about the effects down the road.

The flip side of this is remembering hockey is a contact sport, not a collision sport and we need to teach our young players respect for their opponent.

I’m not sure the message gets across to most players but I know from years of officiating I have seen how players have gotten bigger and faster, allowing them to play with reckless abandon in many cases.

The big hit gets the big cheer from the fans and there are some coaches who maybe encourage the contact a tad too eagerly.

There are clinics on checking which coaches are mandated to attend but some people claim many don’t and that’s a problem if it’s the reality.

The medical evidence backs up what the ban is aimed at. I won’t argue those points but who’s to say the same evidence can’t be gathered at the bantam and midget levels as well.

Maybe the concussion factors raised by the medical community aren’t so much about the body checking itself but more about how our young players are body checking.

Do we take intentional but legal contact right out of the sport?

I think that would be a huge step back but at the same time if we aren’t taking the learning of body checking seriously enough then we are doing a disservice to our young players.

Contact sports will always carry an inherent risk so the question is how do we handle the risk?

A difficult question without a simple answer at this point in the debate.

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