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U.S. moves to protect its peewees

02/11/2011, 8:45am MST
By Eric Duhatschek

Copyright 2011 The Globe and Mail, a division of CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.
All Rights Reserved
The Globe and Mail (Canada)

USA Hockey is considering a proposal that would make bodychecking illegal for all players under 13, an initiative sure to ignite the growing debate over the proper time to introduce contact at the grassroots level.

The proposed measure was raised at USA Hockey's annual winter meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., and according to the association's senior director of hockey development, Kevin McLaughlin, it was not designed primarily to address safety issues.

"It is a skill development initiative first," said McLaughlin, who explained that his organization's research found that bodychecking at the peewee level was significantly distracting players from improving their skills at a critical time in their development. Too often, he said, players of that age were either too focused on hitting or trying to avoid a hit.

"We have to capitalize on what is known as the optimal window of skill acquisition - the age that a kid can maximize his genetic potential, whatever that might be. In hockey, skill acquisition - that optimum trainability - is through 12 years old. So we had to ask ourselves, for two years, are we creating an environment where the focus is on hitting and not on making plays?"

The USA Hockey proposals, which also seek to penalize all contact to the head and neck area, will be voted on at the organization's annual congress in June.

According to McLaughlin, a series of research studies into head injuries that culminated with a concussion summit at the Mayo Clinic last fall also reinforced the need for the initiatives. McLaughlin cited a seminal report conducted by University of Calgary researcher Carolyn Emery and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association as pivotal as well.

Emery's report followed more than 2,000 peewee players - half from Alberta leagues, where bodychecking was permitted, and the rest from Quebec, where it wasn't. The results show a significant difference in the number of head injuries, with 73 concussions among Alberta players over the 2007-2008 season, compared to 20 in Quebec. There were 14 severe concussions in Alberta, versus four in Quebec.

"What we find is that an 11-year-old brain is more susceptible to concussion," McLaughlin said.

"The 11- and 12-year-old brain is not cognitively developed to anticipate being hit. So if you can't anticipate it and you can't protect yourself, you're putting yourself in a predicament to suffer a more severe injury."

Not all hockey associations in Canada are in lockstep with the USA Hockey proposal, including the Ontario Hockey Federation, whose executive director Phillip McKee said Tuesday: "It's not on our radar to raise the age."

"There's a lot of research out there on when bodychecking is best introduced," McKee said. "Some would argue it is important to introduce it at a younger age where there isn't as much testosterone involved, where there's less discrepancy in the size of the individual players."

It is also a matter of some debate in Quebec, the province with the toughest restrictions on bodychecking, where the venerable Quebec peewee tournament has amended its rule to include a division where bodychecking is permitted.

Quebec is the only province in Canada where bodychecking is banned at the peewee level - and there is pressure from within to soften that stance, according to Patrick Dom, general manager of the Quebec international pee-pee tournament, the world's largest hockey event for 11- and 12-year-olds.

"I'm certainly in favour of [checking], otherwise we would never have pushed to include it in the tournament," Dom said in a telephone interview.

This year's edition of the tournament that has featured Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and other stars kicks off next week. It will feature 2,200 players on 114 teams from 15 countries, with a new wrinkle: an elite AA division where checking will be permitted. But to Dom's discomfiture, no Quebec teams will be allowed to enter that division, which was created in part because local teams were having trouble competing against squads from other places who are accustomed to a rougher brand of hockey.

"There's bodychecking in peewee all over the world - except in Quebec," Dom said. "It's not like our kids can't do it."

If the USA Hockey plan to raise the minimum age of bodychecking by two years succeeds, McLaughlin said peewee teams will be still encouraged to learn the art of hitting during practices - and described it as the hockey equivalent of a two-year drivers education program. The hope is that when players reach the bantam age, they will be familiar enough by practising bodychecking that the transition will be relatively smooth and seamless.

"We're not taking all contact out," McLaughlin said. "We want to get away from the intimidating hit, the idea of de-cleating the kid like they do in football. If you watch NHL Classics, it's kind of what old classic NHL games used to be - not the Broad Street Bullies era, but the old days when guys wore cotton shoulder pads and soft elbow pads and no helmets. That was good enough for pros back then."

According to USA Hockey president Ron DeGregorio, the proposed bodychecking modifications appear to have "significant support" within his organization.

"In the end, we need to do what is best for the kids who play the game," DeGregorio said.

With reports from Sean Gordon in Montreal and Robert MacLeod in Toronto

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Update on 2015-16 USA Hockey Officiating Registration

07/08/2015, 5:15pm MDT
By David LaBuda, USA Hockey National Referee-in-Chief

District Referees-in-Chief implement changes to registration procedures

As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

REGISTRATION INFORMATION
For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.

REGISTRATION PROCESS

Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

EXAM PROCESS
The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

IN-CLASS SEMINARS & ONLINE EDUCATION UPDATES
During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.


Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

We’ve also evaluated the number of required modules for each level, and based on the user analytics that the first years’ experience produced, we have reduced the number of required modules in some cases.

Lastly, as a reminder, once an official begins their first online module, they will need to complete all of their online module training within a specified time period. The online module completion time periods are 60 days for Level 1 registered officials and 45 days for Levels 2, 3 and 4. If all of the required and elective modules are not completed within the specified time frame, the official will have to restart all of the module training from the beginning. This requirement was waived during last year’s registration season due to the delayed rollout of the online module program, but it’s back in place this year.

This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

SUMMARY
As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
  • Pass the closed-book exam (no closed-book exam at Level 1) for their registration level
  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle

 

Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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