Bryan Weismiller, Postmedia News
Published: Monday, June 25, 2012
A crushing blow has been dealt to calls to scrap body-checking in minor hockey.
Hockey Calgary's 24 associations elected to keep legal hits in the game after the highly divisive issue was taken to a league-wide vote Saturday at Hockey Calgary's annual general meeting.
One proposal called for the end of bodychecking for players under age 13 for the upcoming hockey season.
The other sought to ban body-checking from bantam play, out-side of elite teams, for the 2013-14 season, and expand the ban to midget level the following sea-son.
Both motions were rejected through a secret-ballot vote.
"Hockey Calgary is a member-based organization," said president Todd Millar. "The members have spoken."
There was sparse discussion before the vote and detailed counts were not announced.
"We always knew this was going to be a hot topic," Millar said. "It was going to be a topic that had strong views on either side."
Earlier this year, Hockey Calgary asked its member associations to support a ban on body checks for all peewee players.
"Our members were almost all against the ban," said Kevin Tyson, president of the Calgary Saints Hockey Association. "We just defeated this motion here and it sends a message."
While many cheered the defeat, others were visibly upset. Chair-man Dave Makarchuk said the Trails West Hockey Association supported the ban.
"Almost all their kids are not going to play in the NHL," Makarchuk said. "From our perspective, it's not worth the concussion risk for those kids. I'm disappointed by the decision, but hopeful for the future."
Fans and parents are hopelessly split on how to improve the game, according to a recent survey of minor hockey league parents. More than 72 per cent surveyed by Hockey Calgary last January said they supported changes to minor hockey. However, only 50 per cent said those changes should be to "make the game safer."
Banning bodychecking is not without precedent in Canada. The practice is prohibited at the pee-wee level in Quebec, while Ontario has taken it out of all levels of house league programs.
© The Province 2012
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