Canada tries to raise kids’ hockey IQ by going small

Listen up, state of hockey. Canada is changing the way young kids learn to play the game.

The Canadian Press reports the organization that governs amateur hockey in Canada is mandating that little kids use smaller rinks.

The organization says it will lead to more skilled players if five- and six-year-olds learn the game on half-rink ice sheets.

“We know statistically when you’re in a smaller playing area it increases the number of puck touches, it increases the number of battles for loose pucks, it increases the number of shots on goal, it increases the number of passes and pass receptions,” Paul Carson, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of membership development, said.

“We’ve coined the phrase, ‘Decrease the space, increase the pace.’ It does make all players better.”

Who’s against the idea? Take a wild guess.

The Saskatchewan Hockey Association, which recently mandated smaller surfaces for beginners for the 2016-2017 season, acknowledged on its website that some parents may want full ice because they want their child to “play like professionals do” and experience “real hockey.”

What else is wrong with a full-sized rink for kids? For one thing, it ends up being just one breakaway after another.

“The entire shift is puck control by two players and eight other players skating up and down the ice following the play, and maybe even at some point deciding, ‘I might as well wait down here. It’s going to come back eventually,’” Carson said.

The governing body recommends kids skate on rinks created by the width of a standard rink instead of the length.

The benefits, according to the Saskatchewan Hockey Association?

* More children get a chance to play hockey.
* Hockey IQ, or understanding the principles of the game, is being developed at a young age.
* More children will experience a feeling of success when playing hockey.
* The same exciting and fun environment as in a “real” game is created.
* Both more and less gifted children will benefit from close/tight action on the ice.
* Children are excited and motivated to continue playing hockey.
* Hockey will be more appealing and rewarding to a wider range of children and their parents.
* Group sizes become smaller which means learning and teaching will become more effective.
* The close feeling of belonging to a team will motivate a child to participate with even greater enthusiasm.
* More repetition/frequency in drills in one ice session.
* More frequent line changes in the game means more ice time for each player.
* Children remain active between their shifts with various activities in the neutral zone.
* The feeling of being an important part of the action increases because of the small size of the rink.
* The children have more energy with which they can improve their skills when they are skating 85 feet across the ice surface as opposed to the 200 foot length of the ice surface.
* Playing on a smaller surface allows for more puck contact resulting in improved puck control skills.
* Decision-making skills are enhanced as more decisions must be made more frequently at a higher tempo.
* Individual technical skills develop more quickly.
* Scoring skills are enhanced since the players have more shooting opportunities and the child sized goal nets (Not Mandatory) force the players to shoot more accurate.
* More repetition for goalkeeper’s which improves reading of the game and reaction to changing game situations becomes more effective.
* The game is full of continuously changing situations.
* The speed in playing situations increases, which will require quicker mental and physical reactions by the players this is because there are no unnecessary breaks in the game.

[Update 3/28/16] – USA Hockey notes it adopted its 8 and under program in 2009.

Going Cross Ice in Canada.