A nationwide directive from Hockey Canada should have multiple positive benefits for younger players while also offering more value for money for parents, according to a Prince Albert hockey official.
Starting in the fall all Novice levels will play on half-ice as opposed to the full ice surface. That will happen in Saskatchewan for the first half of the new season, before the players revert to full ice after the Christmas break.
Saskatchewan Hockey Association GM, Kelly McLintock, said the change means seven and eight year olds can focus more on their skill development.
“They’re touching the puck more, there’s more passes completed, there’s more shots, goalies are more involved and kids are more involved in the game, “he said.
McLintock added the smaller surface means more puck handling for everyone on the ice.
“Now those players [become] more advanced. They’re in a tighter environment, they’re going to have their head up more, stick handle more, and it’s not just a clear path to the goalie all the time,” he said.
James Mays, the technical director with Prince Albert Minor Hockey told paNOW he was on the committee that first discussed these changes and the half-ice play has already been happening with the Novice level 3 kids.
He said there was some grumbling from parents initially but “at the midway point of the season when we went back to full ice the majority of those coaches came back and said it was the right thing to do for that calibre of player.”
Mays used the analogy of learning to ride a bike.
“You don’t give your kid an adult bike and send him off into the traffic,” he said. “You get them a bike that might be 15 inches off the ground with training wheels and a helmet and you lock off the driveway so they can’t go more than 40 feet while they’re learning.”
More ice time means better value for money
The move to half-ice should be good news for parents who are forking out good money for ice time that is often at a premium in Prince Albert given the high demands and because of the vagaries of the weather on the natural ice surfaces.
“They'll [be getting] more games, more ice time and the registration fees we charge are not going up,” Mays said. ”We could go with three teams on the ice: two playing each other on one half and the other practicing on the other half.”
There will be some basic rule changes like no icing, or offside calls or scores kept, because of the smaller surface, but Mays said there have been few complaints.
“I do lots of clinics and some guys put their hands up and say ‘well how is my kid going to learn the offside rule?’” he said.” Well, if that’s your main concern … and not worrying about your seven-year-old learning how to skate or how to handle the puck I guess we’ll never get through to those people.”
Mays said he was pretty sure after this fall’s transitional phase the move to half-ice for Novice will become permanent in the following year.
With files from CKOM
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