Half ice for the kids

Craig Hartsburg
March 7, 2018

There is a new development program being issued by Hockey Canada that has had a lot of different reactions. Some like it, some don’t.

I think the biggest reaction to the new half-ice ice development program is that there are so many questions and potential issues and not enough answers at this point!

I am not even going to attempt to explain it here in this column, although the Cole’s Notes version is that, mandated by Hockey Canada by 2019, all kids eight years of age and under will follow a progression until they get to play full ice.

I personally believe in the reasons and benefits. I think we can do a better job of development and helping kids enjoy the game by playing in smaller spaces.

For example, youth soccer is played on smaller fields, youth baseball plays on smaller fields — it makes sense.

In hockey, kids will get to touch the puck more, shoot more and be in involved in the game more, make quicker decisions and have more fun.

The kids in the Soo Peewee Hockey League actually follow a lot of same things, they are just extending it and giving some guidelines. There are a lot of benefits, some are hidden.

It will take some of the high intensity, emotional games out for parents and kids hockey until they are nine years old. This will help in development and will help in kids and parents not getting burned out by the time they are 13-14 years old. I hope so anyway!

The issues and questions are many — change is always hard and the unknown is hard. The issues start with — when do the changes occur?

The 2010 age group has been playing full ice for two years. Are they going to have to go back now — and will it hurt them? My opinion is that it will.

Where do we get all the goalies, equipment, dividers etc.? Tournaments that provide revenue, do we find ways to make it work? Why are Toronto’s 2010 kids not going to play half ice? Why is every small town in Northern Ontario treated the same — all have different issues! Lots of questions to still be answered!

The people in charge of the NOHA and Hockey Canada will help us understand the benefits as I am doing but they have to help people understand how we deal with the issues.

I am all in if it is good for the kids and I think with some answers I am sure parents will be as well.

What you think about “Half ice for the kids”

  1. Great article. It is about time that the PEEWEE executive start following there own rules which clearly state half ice practices. Unfortunately exceptions are being made for novice through atom A and Select division teams to have full ice practises. Article 46 under By-laws dated September 2014 page 7 state Tyke through Atom 2 teams per practice. . I can’t understand why in the same division there is such a disrepency on practice frequency and division of ice time. House gets half ice and A and Select gets full ice. The other issue which isn’t mentioned is that it frees up more ice team so teams are able to have more practices. And I don’t want to hear the excuse that House players don’t show up for practices, I am yet to see an attendance stat.

  2. Thank you, Craig. The biggest issues with the half-ice mandate by Hockey Canada, appear to be:

    1. The fact that there is a cohort of kids who have been playing full-ice and are now being forced to play half-ice games.
    2. Parents are failing to see the benefits of half-ice hockey for the development of the kids.

    Hockey Canada, OHF, and NOHA must continue to ‘sell’ this development program to Canadian hockey parents. This was a program developed here in Canada years ago, but never adopted. USA Hockey did adopt this half-ice program, and if recent NHL entry drafts are any indication, the USA seems to be producing more high-end individual talent.

    The system works. Canadians need to embrace it and make our minor hockey development better. Sault Ste. Marie hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of individual talent in recent years, so half-ice hockey can only help.

    1. As a father of 4 boys playing in the US aged 17-10 and having used the USAH ADM model for my 10 year old I can tell you that the half ice model is ok but is not anything different than what was taught to my 17 year old under the “old” system. The younger kids now are not nearly as good as kids the were 7 years prior. I attribute it to the half ice games. Also by mandating the ADM program USAH opened up a can of worms it probably wishes it could close by droves of people leaving and going to AAU hockey which allowed full ice games, black puck, and delayed offsides. Derek, those recent draft picks from the US did not do the half ice hockey, you wont see those kids from the US until the 05 birth year to get a true indication. Also, at least in the US, going to half ice did not reduce any costs to the families. Half ice games, still full ice price. I am not a believer in the “system” that USAH has implemented. I know this is a separate subject but I also believe that a great disservice was done by removing checking at the PW age. Checking is a skill and should be taught early on imo. What it all boils down to imo in both Canada and US is coaches that truly teach both skills AND how to play the game. (FYI, all my boys best coaches played either in NHL and/or Major Jr. there in CA.) Having great skill is important but how to play the game is just as or even more important.

  3. I’ve watched a lot of hockey in the past 5 years, staring out the little window from the Soo Pee Wee Pro Shop. The most exciting division to watch has always been Novice major: eight year olds, full ice, stretch passes, learning positional play, knowing off sides, puck movement…the list goes on. The dinosaurs at Hockey Canada have this one wrong.

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