Sports
Rogue Manitoba peewee league will offer bodychecking after Hockey Canada ban

Darryl Wolski of Brandon is proposing a new peewee league that would allow bodychecking.

Credits: QMI AGENCY

DOUG LUNNEY | QMI AGENCY

WINNIPEG - A hockey-minded entrepreneur from Brandon, Man., is proposing a private peewee league that would allow bodychecking, ignoring the rule passed by Hockey Canada that banned bodychecking until the age of 13.

Darryl Wolski's league would operate outside of Hockey Canada and Hockey Manitoba, similar to the spring and summer leagues he has run for 20 years. The only difference with his peewee league is it would operate from fall to spring in direct competition with Hockey Manitoba.

Wolski posted: "Wendy's Peewee Contact Hockey League to come to Brandon and Westman in September 2013" on Twitter on Saturday, immediately after Hockey Canada's ruling was announced. He was encouraged by the response from parents, so he's in the process of acquiring insurance, officials, a five-member board and coaches.

"The amount of feedback I got on Twitter and Facebook shocked me," he said. "It just tells me that other people think it's a good idea. It just needs somebody to steer the boat, so I guess I'll be the guy to steer the boat for now."

Wolski plans to have about five teams play out of the Brandon area, but didn't rule out a couple of Winnipeg clubs if there was enough interest.

"There won't be much travel," he said. "We'll still have certified referees. I will get the insurance in place and we'll have nothing to do with Hockey Manitoba or Hockey Canada. It will be a separate entity."

Wolski would follow a similar format employed by his friend, Bernie McBain. across the border. McBain's Minnesota Made Hockey program offers a Choice Squirt League that runs from September to March. The Choice league started up last season, not sanctioned by the Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association, after branches across the US banned bodychecking until bantam.

Wolski predicted he won't be the only one following McBain's lead, expecting other private peewee leagues to surface across Canada.

"This is going to keep kids playing at a good level until they get to bantam," he said. "Then they'll go to AAA bantam, the Western Hockey League draft and Manitoba Junior Hockey League draft."

Peter Woods, Hockey Manitoba executive director, questioned the wisdom of ignoring the years of research on concussions that led to the rule change.

"You have somebody who wants to be a rebel and decides that we're going to continue to expose our players to that level of risk, well ... it's being a bit disrespectful to the sport," Woods said. "If people want to ignore what most of the world is doing."

Reaction to the rule has been "mixed" with the local hockey community, Woods said, but added it was a responsible and prudent decision.

"Twenty years ago you wouldn't have been getting a suspension for elbowing someone in the head (in the NHL)," he said. "And that's guys that are getting paid for a living.

"These are minor hockey youth kids that we were exposing to an unnecessary level of risk."

One Brandon-area parent, who asked that his name not be published, is interested in having his son play in Wolski's league and said he's not alone. His son plays on spring and summer teams, one of which played a full-contact game last Sunday at the MTS Iceplex.

"We're playing at a tournament in Regina and all the teams voted in favour of having bodychecking this weekend," he said.

"Don Cherry said it perfectly - there should be two leagues, one for the elite who want to have bodychecking and another for those who don't want it. I think that's what Darryl is offering. What's wrong with running our summer league all winter now?"

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