Big changes hitting minor hockey in Saskatchewan

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WATCH ABOVE: Saskatchewan's two largest minor hockey leagues have banned body contact from B-level bantam and midget play – May 17, 2019

Following the lead of minor hockey in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, Hockey Regina and the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association have decided to ban body contact in the bantam and midget B levels.

“For a small guy like me, I mean, it’s kind of helpful,” minor hockey player Orlen Pratt said. “I can actually skate so I don’t have to be scared of getting hit in the middle of the ice. I did actually enjoy playing contact last year, whether or not I was hit a lot, it was still pretty fun.”

“It’s kind of either-or,” minor hockey player Noah Simpson added. “It trains people to be heads-up when they play the puck, but, it’s also preventing people from getting hurt.”

READ MORE: Bodychecking banned from lower levels of minor hockey in Regina and Saskatoon

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Some hockey parents were skeptical of the rule change in the beginning.

“Initially, I was a little bit opposed to it,” hockey parent Martin Paul said. “But, when you get into the fact that a lot of the B players are just going to be playing rec hockey when they age out, it’s actually not a bad thing.”

Others agree that this could become the natural progression for some minor hockey players.

“Obviously, just like the league that’s going on behind us, I mean, there’s an appetite for a league of less hitting,” Saskatoon Blazers scout Brett Jarvis said. “So, depending on how it goes with each level going forward, then we’ll see if it was a good move.”

READ MORE: Hockey Canada bans bodychecking for peewee players across the country

One of the biggest positives taken from other minor hockey leagues on the Prairies were a reduction in penalties and post-whistle scrums, which leads to fewer injuries.

“It’ll make it safer for the smaller people who have the skill,” minor hockey player James Courtice said. “It will also take out some of the rough stuff from the game because a big hit usually causes some pushing and shoving.”

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However, for those minor hockey players who still have the drive to continue playing contact hockey, one current player sees the answer for them as being pretty clear.

“I like contact, it’s fun,” minor hockey player Max Waslen said. “So, I mean, it’s sort of sad, but, I’ve just got to make A now to (play) contact.”