I can’t skate…but I love hockey!
My love for hockey began 10 years ago when my son, then aged 3, wanted to play. Knowing nothing about the sport I tried to coerce him away from a sport where I saw dedicated parents get up in the wee cold hours of a winter morning to take their kids to 7 a.m. ice times and on winter road trips. For my son, and it seems like every Canadian boy before him, hockey was in his blood and…I became a hockey dad.
This spring, my now 13-year-old son, had an opportunity to play spring hockey with other first year bantam players. Not too excited about sports that extend into other sports’ seasons, I was initially opposed to the idea. However, this was a league where body checking was introduced and I thought that it would be excellent exposure to “hit hockey.”
It was a fabulous learning opportunity. Coach Rob taught and encouraged correct ways to check and take a check and the reasons to check. In a season of ‘hit’ hockey no major injuries were encountered.
Fast forward to early season exhibition bantam hockey, players are 13- and 14-year-olds. Some have been ‘hitting’ for a year and others for their very first time. Size differences show a mismatch with 4’11” 120 lbs against 5’9” 160 lb lads and a few gals as well.
In an early exhibition game my son’s team was on the receiving end of three major injuries, each sustaining a broken bone from checks in a game with an experienced officiating crew at the helm.
This should beg the question: What’s going on? Is it just an anomaly that we need not worry about? Can we do something about it? Should we sound the alarm?
This incident becomes personal for me for two reasons. As a dad, I won’t get to watch my son play as he recovers from a fracture and a possible ACL rupture. As a health care practitioner I see too many players with concussion symptoms related to hockey. (Remember that you do not need to be hit in the head to sustain a concussion; body impact can cause them too.)
Should we eliminate body checking altogether in leagues other than that of AA and higher?
Should we incorporate body checking sooner so that it is not a novel thing to do for the first time at age 13 when, eliminating a player from the game, becomes a thing to do?
Should the penalties received for illegal hits be so punitive that players play with more care and attention?
Do we need more coaches like Coach Rob who does not tolerate a “hit’ from his players unless it is to separate puck from player?
Do we suspend coaches too when their minor charges are suspended for blatant injury causing penalties?
I love hockey. Can we fix it? Can we afford not to?
Cal David, Hockey Dad