Body checking banned in Sask. Bantam B and Midget B levels
Saskatchewan’s two largest minor hockey associations will not allow body checking in the Bantam B and Midget B levels next season.
The decision comes after the elimination of hitting at the peewee level in 2013, which Saskatoon Minor Hockey executive director Kelly Boes said is working.
“As time has gone by, we’re five or six years into it, we're starting to see the benefits of it. There's a lot less injuries, less concussions, kids get to hold onto the puck more, have a little more fun, have a little more skill level.”
Lee Branstetter, a coach and parent in Saskatoon, welcomes the decision.
"When the players are playing in the lower categories there's a reason that they're there. Either their skating isn’t there, they're smaller players, they're afraid of the physical and they play more on the perimeter so they end up getting hit more.”
For him, it hits close to home. His brother was hit from behind in 2001 and is a quadriplegic.
However Troy Pilot, who has coached for 15 years from initiation to bantam, said a ban on checking won’t necessarily be safer for some players.
“It’s going to be harder for those first year bantam players who come into the league to now make the jump in their second year of bantam to play a higher level of hockey because they haven't done any body contact."
Saskatchewan is one of the last provinces to ban checking contact at these levels and Pilot said it shows in the product that comes out of the province.
“Playoff hockey is tough, hard hockey and a lot of Saskatchewan boys who play on the St. Louis Blues are still in the playoff hunt because of how they play the game,” he said.
Bantam players are ages 13 and 14. Midget players are between the ages of 15 and 17.