Mission Statement: Is no contact in Pee Wees best for growing the game?
I want to talk about the decision of USA Hockey a few years back to take contact out of Pee Wee hockey and move it to the Bantam age group.
I have coached Bantams for the past 16 years and to be honest, all I see is more and more injuries as a result of this decision.
This age group – 13- and 14-year-old kids – are right at that point where some are maturing and growing, where others have not. It is not uncommon to see a 6-foot-3 player competing against a 5-foot-4 player in this age group.
It is truly a recipe for disaster encountering contact for the first time.
I was coaching Pee Wee when they made the decision and I still have no clear-cut idea on why this decision was made.
Pee Wees, for the most part, are balanced in size and have not started to develop or mature yet. Their bodies are like gummy bears, and can handle the impact and essential understanding of how to protect themselves in a level-size playing field.
The concussion rate has gone through the roof with this age group and I see almost an injury a game. Most of the time, it is just a bigger kid running into a smaller one. It just sets them up to players scared and timid, which creates more injuries.
I also see all 13-year-old teams year after year lose players to high school or not playing at all due to this entry level of contact.
I thought we were trying to grow the sport, not set our kids up to fail?
I talk with coach after coach who feels exactly the same way, yet the guys in the trenches are all confused to why this move was made.
Pee Wee was a great level to introduce body contact with less chance of injury. The pace is slower, kids are smaller, and you just don’t see the range of sizes you see in a typical Bantam game.
I would ask that USA Hockey revisit this decision and do a study of how many more injuries are occurring at these levels before the decision.
It made no sense to me when they did it and less and less every season I see the results of this decision.
I think this is something that truly needs to be considered. As a staple in the Bantam division for years, I feel nothing has been gained from this decision and it is truly putting some kids in very bad situations on the ice.
I would suggest that coaches start to introduce contact in their Pee Wee practices so players start to get a comfort level and learn how to protect themselves along the boards and in open ice.
We are forced to take as many preventive steps as possible as they walk into the faster pace of Bantam and now we have to deal with huge size and strength ranges.
I hope this something that will gain some traction as I see so many players not playing any more as a result of this decision.
I am sure there was some logic behind the decision at the time, but in my opinion, they need to take a closer look at the actual results.
Jeremy Goltz is the director of hockey operations for Mission Arizona.
(Dec. 11, 2017)