OMHA changing the way younger players learn the game

April 8, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

Anyone who started out playing hockey as a very young participant knows just how big a hockey arena really is when you’re only half the size of a Junior age player.

It’s a long way from one end to the other. Receiving or delivering a pass or just making it down to the other team’s zone requires a lot of effort.

The Ontario Minor Hockey Association in partnership with Hockey Canada and the Ontario Hockey Federation has formally announced a transformation which includes the implementation of a cross / half-ice game roll-out for Novice and younger players.

“Station based practices, small area games, lightweight blue pucks and age appropriate ice size ensure players are engaged and have the right start in their hockey experience,” said OMHA executive director, Ian Taylor. “Scaling the game to match the age group allows young players the opportunity for more puck-touches which promotes greater opportunity for skill development in puck handling, shooting, skating, coordination and decision making.”

Hockey Canada has established national guidelines to help ensure optimal development for players at a crucial introductory stage which the OMHA began implementing this season.

These include cross-ice play for initiation age players – five and six year-olds, and half-ice play for Tykes effective in the 2018-19 season.

The following season, games for Novice age (8 years) will start with half-ice and transition to full ice over the second half of the season.

“This program was developed to allow kids to have fun, learn skills, and develop confidence,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada. “Their field of play now matches their size and these players ill be able to hone in on their skill development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conductive to.”

The age appropriate programing will include an increased emphasis on skating skills, increased number of puck battles, passing, shooting, ice awareness, and an overall elevation of their hockey sense.

Phil McKee, executive director at the Ontario Hockey Federation, said “This fresh direction demonstrates that organizers are thinking about long-term goals that include short-term benefits.”

When researching the proposed changes, it was discovered that when playing age appropriate ice sizes, there are two-times more puck touches, pass attempts, shot attempts and change of direction play.

There are also five-times more passes received. The study showed there are 1.75 shots per minute verses .45 shots per minute when playing on a full size ice surface.

The changes should provide a better hockey experience for younger players and enable coaches to help players hone their skills on the ice.

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