BC Hockey is at the forefront of age appropriate programming for Initiation (5-6) and Novice (7-8) age levels hockey as Hockey Canada announces changes across the country for cross ice hockey to become mandatory at the Initiation level.
BC Hockey has had cross ice hockey in place for not only Initiation, but also Novice, since the start of the 2016-17 season. Cross ice hockey focuses on player development and more enjoyment for the children participating in those age groups.
“You would never put a five or six-year-old child on a full-size soccer pitch, or expect them to play on a baseball field without any adjustments made for their size. Hockey is no different,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada. “The program was developed to allow kids to have fun, learn skills, and develop confidence,” said Carson. “Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice means more puck-touches, which result in more chances to practice puck-control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development - twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility. Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
The differences in skill-development opportunities with cross-ice hockey is significant: players receive five times more passes and take six times more shots. They’re called on to have to make more decisions more quickly, and are overall more engaged in the game.
Special boards and bumpers have been developed that allow for quick and easy division of a regular-sized rink into three cross-ice rinks, with options to create different small-area configurations. Not only does re-sizing the playing surface allow for players to develop their hockey skills more effectively, it also allows communities to maximize their ice time by safely putting more teams and games on the ice at one time.
“We have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from our associations that have committed to the program,” says BC Hockey coaching coordinator Aaron Hoffman. “We see the kids having more fun and getting better skill development with the higher amount of time they get to touch the puck. Cross ice hockey is only set up for games with practice plans specifically designed to skill development and player enjoyment.”
BC Hockey has also implemented a thorough, detailed Atom Transition Plan designated for coaches and players to prepare kids moving from Novice to Atom and transitioning from cross ice to full ice hockey.
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