Hockey Canada Mandates Cross-Ice Hockey For Youth
Hockey Canada announced last week that initiation age hockey players, aged 5-6 in Canada, will be playing cross-ice hockey. The change will be mandatory across the country. Some regions, including Saskatchewan have been playing cross-ice hockey for longer, and countries such as the United States and Sweden have been ahead of the curve, implementing this change well before Canada to staggeringly positive developmental results.
According to sports psychologist Dr. Stephen Norris, the move should appease parents and players by getting youth more engaged in the game, and allowing them more touches with the puck, and more interaction in the game.
“They’re learning to do something and it’s only when they start to put things together that they actually start to reach success. The research clearly shows, and parents should be looking at this, that their children are more actively engaged, which means they have the puck with them a greater number of times, they have the puck on their stick for a longer period of time, they’re interacting with the other players to a greater extent,” said Norris in a Hockey Canada video. “They’re having to make more decisions, they’re having to control their bodily motions. So the whole milieu of key performance indicators is raised.”
USA Hockey implemented this tactic years ago, and studied the impact of cross-ice hockey on youth development. They found that in the smaller space, youth were taking six times more shots on goal, twice as many passes, five times more pass receptions, and twice as many changes in direction; all key skills in hockey development.
Saskatchewan Hockey, which implemented this change in 2016-2017, justified the move saying “Cross-ice hockey, or hockey on a smaller surface, is an important part of age-appropriate training for initiation and even novice players. Using a smaller surface in initiation hockey offers several benefits, including increased puck battles, increased puck-touches for all players, puck carriers will have to avoid more players in the small areas, etc. All of these benefits are extremely important in the long-term development of each player.”
Coaches and parents at the initiation level will get their chance to watch cross-ice hockey beginning next Fall as the change is mandatory nationwide next season.