Body Checking in Minor Hockey

This archived article is from January 2004. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

An emotional debate is raging about Canada's national sport. Should body checking be allowed in minor league hockey?

Hockey Canada recommends that body checking begin at age 11. In 2003, four of that Association's 13 branches decided to allow checking for boys as young as nine years old. Hockey Canada set a condition that the branches must participate in a pilot study on the impact of body checking.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 8,000 people were treated for hockey related injuries in Ontario hospital emergency rooms in the 2002-2003 season. Based on this rate, more than 25,000 people were injured across the country. In 93 cases of the 8,000, the casualty was admitted to hospital, 15 directly to critical care units.

Among young hockey players (18 and under) 62 per cent of injuries were a result of checking. Injuries caused by body checks are most common in the 14 to 16 group, after players have been exposed to checking for several years. Seven per cent of the injured were girls and women, yet female hockey is exclusively non-contact.

The decision to allow body checking in minor hockey could jeopardize our national sport by turning it into our most dangerous game.

Allowing atom players to check will drive young boys away from the game. The main reason kids play any sport is for fun. Hitting and the risk of serious injuries remove the motivation.

Any branch that permits body checking for young children must consider its exposure to legal liability. Checking is inherently dangerous with potentially catastrophic results. Claims for spinal cord injuries and concussions from checking send insurance rates skyrocketing.

Minor hockey is a better game to watch and play without body checking. When players concentrate on skating, shooting, passing and teamwork the quality of the game improves. If players skate well, the other skills become academic.