WINNIPEG — For the past two years, the youngest hockey players in the province have been playing on smaller ice surfaces.
It’s a chance to give the five and six-year-olds more opportunities at touching and handling the puck and improving their skills.
But now as the rest of Canada catches up and adopts that regulation, Global News has learned Hockey Manitoba is taking it one step further.
The provincial amateur hockey body will be implementing big changes with its seven and eight-year-old players by moving to half-ice.
“We’re making the next step at our novice program and we’ll be going to half-ice,” Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods said. “We might get some push back on that but we are pretty positive with the steps we’ve done so far that it will go well.”
The organization hasn’t explained exactly when the new program will be rolled out.
While some parents and coaches acknowledge they can see the benefits, others have said this will hold back players and their development.
“We’re moving backwards,” said hockey mom and Southdale Community Centre program manager Joyce Webinger. “Anything new will be a struggle for everybody. It will be a very interesting transition.”
Webinger said they haven’t been told what the new format will look like.
“We’re still waiting for direction,” Webinger said. “They haven’t set any rules or formats as to what is taking place.”
“It depends how Hockey Manitoba decides to implement the changes,” said hockey coach and parent Peter Culley. “I’ve heard rumours that we are just going to use the Timbits 10×10 square dividers on the end. That’s not a great idea.”
Even though few details of the change have been released, it is already dividing hockey parents.
“You’ll see some uproar,” Culley said. “We are so ingrained we grew up playing hockey a certain way and they want to change that way.”
While Culley believes overall this may be a good idea, he said it will ultimately have the biggest impact on goalies.
“We are leaving our goaltenders out to dry,” he said. “With a full rink they had the crease to give them some sort of positioning and the dots. There’s no crease for them to kind of figure out where they are.”
The new changes could be implemented as early as this fall.