Saturday, June 23- 10 year-old Seamus Keith of the NSD Titans is body checked by 11 year-old Danielle Serdachny with the Serdachny Elite during the Stampede Challenge as Hockey Calgary announced yesterday body-checking would stay in the game at the Pee Wee level.
Credits: BRENDAN MILLER/QMI AGENCY
CALGARY -- It's game on for body-checking in peewee hockey in Calgary.
Supporters of keeping the hits scored big Saturday when Hockey Calgary voted down a controversial ban on body checks that would have started this fall, in a move to increase player safety.
Hockey Calgary had announced the ban in March, a decision that split the hockey community between those who wanted a safer game and others who wanted hockey to endure as it has.
At the organization's annual general meeting Saturday, a majority of Hockey Calgary members who cast a ballot voted against taking it out.
A motion to remove body-checking from both bantam, except for at the elite level and Divisions 1-3 for the 2013-2014 season, and from the same midget level the following season, was also defeated.
Hockey Calgary president Todd Millar said the outcome was the result of a "solid" democratic and membership process that included forming a committee to review research, informing the public. and encouraging parents and children alike to tell their respective hockey associations how to vote.
"Today is a direct result of their voices going to their respective associations and telling Hockey Calgary board of directors what direction they'd like to head," he said.
The decision by Hockey Calgary has the potential to be reversed if Hockey Alberta, which is itself reviewing body-checking, decides to implement a ban.
Back in the spring, Hockey Calgary found about 73% of the peewee-age players' parents wanted a change.
But to hockey dad Jay Steele, who applauded Saturday's decision, banning body-checking was not the right change.
Steele sat on the committee set up to review studies about the issue, including one done by University of Calgary researcher Dr. Carolyn Emery who found Alberta peewee players suffered three times more injuries than their Quebec counterparts, who aren't allowed to body check.
Taking away body-checking does not necessarily result in safer games, he said.
"It can be safe with checking as long as people have the attitude and behaviour on the ice," he said.
"Hockey is a contact sport, it's not a collision sport -- it comes back to how you play the game."
Hockey mom Tammy Patterson said it's beneficial to the kids to keep body-checking in the game and they would be put at a disadvantage as they progressed if it was taken out.
"They need to be taught from an early age how to do it properly," she said.
Mike Lee, the father of a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old player, agreed it was the right decision.
"The root of the issue lies in stronger coaching development, and in training for our officials," he said.
"Now we can get back to focusing more on these key areas to help solve the challenge of preparing our players properly for body contact and body-checking right from Timbits."