Sports

Mixed reactions to removal of hitting from hockey

While bodychecking has been given a permanent game misconduct at the recreational level, the Langley Minor Hockey Association voted against the new resolution.

“It has been a hot button issue,” admitted LMHA president Kevin Green.

“We were in favour of keeping bodychecking as the status quo.”

Delegates representing the 42 Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association-member minor hockey associations voted 123-39 in favour of the ban, which takes effect for the 2012-13 hockey season.

The vote was held on Sunday at a general meeting held by the PCAHA.

LMHA voted against the resolution based on parental response to a survey they issued to the association’s approximate 1,200 members.

Green said 545 responded with mixed results: 52 per cent wanted to keep hitting in the game while 46 per cent favoured its removal.

“The membership in general was in favour of it, so we voted against the resolution,” he said.

Hockey Canada prohibits bodychecking below the peewee (11/12) level and in female hockey. Various other jurisdictions further restrict bodychecking at other age or competitive levels.

The new rule will restrict hitting to only the rep hockey level for peewee, bantam and midget.

Green said the LMHA would have preferred to offer two levels of C, or house hockey: hitting and non-hitting, like some other leagues have done, but is not offered in the Fraser Valley.

He proposed that at the meeting, but was quickly shot down.

“The best option for us was the creation of a non-bodychecking division,” Green said.

“We thought that would give people the choice.”

Green has received some feedback from Langley parents  on the decision and it has been negative.

“I have had a few very angry emails about the decision,” he said, adding it is not a huge sample size, however.

Quite a few of the midget (15-17) players are upset.

“For a lot of them, (hitting) is why they like to play,” Green said. “It is part of the game for them and a lot of them have threatened not to play next year and that is my big concern, that our midget division is going to seriously decrease in numbers because of the decision.

“We don’t know; obviously time will tell.”

George Olson has a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old in the sport and he is concerned the new rule will affect the quality of play.

“I think this ruins the game,” he said.

“A team only needs one good skilled player now; a kid is just going to dangle all the way, end to end and not pass it and just score.

“It takes away a lot of passing; bodychecking is a real leveler in the game.”

Another problem he sees is that it will be hard for a player to try out for the rep team once if they don’t make it right away.

He said his younger son was hoping to try out for the rep midget team in two years, after getting one year of midget under his belt.

“Once a kid is in house, if they don’t make it one year, they will never make it again because the game is so different with the hitting and they are not doing any hitting in the house league,” Olson said. “

Those kids that have aspirations of trying to get better and move up to rep never will.”

On the other side of the argument is Donna Guay, who has three boys, ages 7, 8 and 14.

None of them currently play the sport, but she said they may be inclined to with the new rules.

Guay’s husband used to referee minor hockey in the Lower Mainland so she has seen the size discrepancies among players.

“Really their bodies aren’t developed enough and I think it is a safety issue,” she said.

“Every kid is different. I look at my 14-year-old compared to other 14-year-old boys and he is smaller compared to some of his counterparts. And if he were to play hockey, and have some 180-pound 15-year-old boy slam him ... it is going to hurt.”

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