WATCH ABOVE: Carey Marsden explains why the GTHL is preparing to ban bodychecking in some games.
TORONTO – Minor hockey in Toronto could soon be getting a little less physical.
The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) sent a letter to board members, staff, club presidents and general managers on Monday informing them the league committee voted unanimously to ban bodychecking from Minor Bantam Single “A” for the 2015-2016 season upon approval of the clubs.
The rule change would keep kids in Minor Bantam, or 13 years and younger as of December 31, from bodychecking. The league is considering a gradual removal of bodychecking beginning with the Minor Bantams and stems from a parent survey in which the change was supported.
“At minor bantam, 60 per cent of the parents wanted bodychecking removed,” Scott Oakman, executive director of the GTHL said in an interview.”The divisions that have bodychecking now, that they would finish their minor hockey careers, if they chose to continue playing A hockey, they could do so with bodychecking.”
Oakman said that bodychecking would be prohibited in all A level games within four years.
But that’s not good enough for some parents who want it gone from all A level games.
“It still doesn’t change the fundamentals of the problem,” he said.
Tim Short has three kids playing in the GTHL but took his oldest out before he turned 13 years old and would be playing at a level where there would be bodychecking.
He says he’s watched hundreds of games and believes bodychecking at that age is dangerous.
“When you have a 95 pound boy, who would be average, maybe a little bit below average in size and weight, up against somebody who weighs 155 or 160 pounds, at that maturity level, you are asking for a big accident,” he said.
But Frank Avsenik, the head coach of the minor bantam North York Knights, said the rule change will give the GTHL an opportunity to provide a competitive, non-contact environment for kids to play hockey.
He says, however, that hitting is part of the game.
“For those that want to play contact hockey, that opportunity still exists in double AA and/or Triple AA,” he said.
“And it is part of the game and it always has been, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be played effectively and competitively in a non-contact environment.”
The rule change would keep any team from participating in tournaments or exhibition games with teams playing in a league where there is bodychecking.
The GTHL will be voting on the issue at the General Members Meeting in March.
– With files from Carey Marsden