Young hockey player with the puck. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Pixart

Half The Ice, Double The Development

The Sarnia Hockey Association (SHA) is ahead of the game when it comes to skill development.

Starting this fall, Hockey Canada made half-ice hockey mandatory for all 6-year-olds across the county, something the SHA was already doing last year.

President Mike Johnston says they knew the change would be coming and wanted to get a head start. He says for the most part parents were on board with the decision with the exception of some initial push back.

“There was a good third that said it was a step backwards, and that we’re ruining the game and hindering their child’s progress,” says Johnston. “I went to a bunch of games to stand in the crowd and talk to parents, and I think by the end of the year we convinced about 95% of them that this is the right direction.”

Johnston says the feedback they’ve received from the kids has been very positive as well.

“Minor hockey is suppose to be fun, but if you’re not touching the puck and you’re not progressing as a player, then pretty soon your asking mom or dad if you can try something else,” he says.

He says half ice hockey is also a much better option for skill development, as it gives every player the opportunity to make decisions quickly, rather than just chase the puck.

As a result of recent backlash, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area. The Ontario Hockey Federation announced last week that 6-year-olds who have already been chosen for select seven-year-old teams will be be exempt from the half-Half-ice games.

Johnston expects Hockey Canada to expand half-ice games to seven and 8-year-olds in the next few seasons.