When seven and eight year old hockey players take to the ice next winter, the game will have a different look to it for the first half of the year.
After consultations with the various zones in the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, it has been decided that from the start of the year until December, all practices and games will be played on half-ice before moving back to full ice on January 1.
Kelly McClintock is the general manager of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association says skills development is the focus behind this initiative.
“Kids need to know so much more than the dump and chase style of play. The game today is more east-west today than it is north-south.” McClintock said. ” We want the kids, even the better ones to be challenged in a smaller environment. They will have to keep their head up, stickhandle more and keep their head up. Every kid will be able to touch the puck more and it will even give the goalies a chance to be more engaged.”
McClintock adds when you see what other sports do at this age range, it really is something which is long overdue which is why Hockey Canada created the nationwide directive which has already been in effect in some provinces.
“In baseball, a seven and eight year old isn’t using a major league diamond, in basketball, you don’t shoot on a ten-foot basket at that age and in soccer, you don’t play on the field you would play in a World Cup. ” McClintock stated. “In hockey though, we think we should be playing on a 200 foot by 85 foot rink like NHL players do for seven and eight year olds. If other sports are doing it, why shouldn’t we. Those who are already doing it including some European countries and the US are developing some pretty good hockey players.”
McClintock says for the most part there has been a positive response to what will be happening. He says those that did have some objections have mainly changed their approach on the matter and now see what benefits a move like this will have.