The face of minor hockey in the province is changing, as the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), in partnership with Hockey Canada and the Ontario Hockey Federation, has formally announced a transformation in programming, which includes the implementation of a cross/half-ice game rollout-out through to the 2019-2020 season for Novice and below 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,” says 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:
Currently, game play for the Initiation group (5 & 6 year-olds) is now Cross-Ice.
Effective 2018-19, game play for Tykes will be half ice.
The following season, games for Novices (8-year-olds) 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,” says Paul Carson, Vice-President of Membership Development for Hockey Canada. “Their field-of-play now matches their size, and these players will be able to hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
Age appropriate programming includes an increased emphasis on skating skills, increased number of puck battles, passing, shooting, ice awareness, and an overall elevation of hockey sense.
“Right now, we may all be too focused on over-competing and under-teaching,” says Phil McKee, Executive Director at the Ontario Hockey Federation. “This fresh direction demonstrates that organizers are thinking about long-term goals that include short-term benefits.”
The Ontario Minor Hockey Association, founded in 1935, is a leader in community sport and oversees a participant base of 300,000 consisting of players, coaches, trainers, officials, hockey volunteers and parents across the province. The OMHA works with its 225 local minor hockey associations and annually coordinates 28 leagues to create the best minor hockey experience in Canada. For more information, visit http://www.omha.net.