Under-9 Hockey

Frequently Asked Questions about Novice Hockey

The Hockey Canada Novice program has been designed to give young players the best experience possible on the ice, which will lead to more skills, more ice time and more fun! After extensive research and studies, it is clear that half-ice hockey for Novice-aged players helps develop the finer points of hockey, and will benefit them as players in the long term.

If you have any questions about how the move to half-ice hockey will affect your child, take a look through our Frequently Asked Questions, or submit a question.

Important clarification regarding Novice ice use

Novice half-ice games do not force two teams into half an ice surface. TWO teams are divided in half, playing TWO half-ice games at once. Two games use the entire surface of the ice, allowing for 20 active players rather than 12.

Novice Gameplay

Q: What does the change mean for: Blue-lines

A: One of the biggest changes that parents and kids will notice is the absence of blue-lines and offside calls - this allows kids to play without stopping, and get the most fun out of their ice time every game. Without having to worry about stopping the play for an offside face-off, kids are able to maximize their playing time each time they get on the ice! A recent study showed that 33% of ice time is lost to line changes and lining up for face-offs. Offside can be taught quickly to Atom-aged players.

Q: What does the change mean for: Line changes

A: Hockey Canada recommends that every 60 seconds a buzzer sounds to indicate a line change - the players on the ice will leave the puck where it is and change on the fly. The timed buzzer will make sure every player gets an equal amount of time on the ice.

Q: What does the change mean for: Face-offs

A: There will be a face-off to start the game and to start the second half. In order to make sure kids are getting the most out of their time on the ice, there will be no face-offs throughout the game, which means kids will get 33% more playing time!

Q: What does the change mean for: Periods/time limits

A: Based on 60 minutes of ice time, kids will get three minutes for warm-up, and the game will be played as two 25-minute halves with a two-minute intermission. Regardless of the length of the ice time, minor hockey associations are encouraged to allow a three-minute warm-up and two-minute intermission, and to split the remaining time in half.

Q: What does the change mean for: Goaltender puck freezes

A: In the event the goaltender freezes the puck, the attacking team will back away and possession will move to the goaltender’s team without stopping play.

Q: What does the change mean for: Out of bounds

A: If the puck is put out of play (onto the bench, past the centre-ice dividers (if utilized) or over the glass), the official will place another on the ice where the puck was last in play, and the non-offending team takes possession.

Q: What does the change mean for: Scoring goals

A: When a goal is scored, possession is turned over to the opposing team and play will continue.

Q: What does the change mean for: Penalties

A: Penalties will still be called during half-ice games. However, instead of stopping the play, the non-offending team will take possession of the puck and the official will inform the coach what penalty was called on which player. Play will continue 4-on-4, but the offending player will sit out the following shift. Coaches are asked to explain the penalty to the offending player.

Q: What does the change mean for: Number of players

A: The ideal size for Novice program teams would be 18 players. During games, they will split into two squads of nine players each - eight skaters and one goaltender. However, the roster size will be determined by the number of players registered, so roster size may vary by location.

Q: What does the change mean for: Goaltending

A: Every child should get the chance to play as a goaltender during their Novice years. This system gives kids the chance to develop a wide range of skills, instead of focusing on a single position and missing out on the opportunity to practice in all areas!


Q: How is it real hockey?

A: At this age, under eight years old, child development specialists say the focus should be on fun and skill development. Giving kids the opportunity to play continuously and work on their skills will ensure a healthy and balanced approach to the game and increase the likelihood of a long-term involvement in hockey. All other sports - soccer, basketball, tennis, baseball - reduce the playing field for age-appropriate play.

Q: What are the benefits of half-ice games ?

A: Half-ice games are the best way for kids to maximize the opportunity to learn the core elements of hockey by maximizing playing time. This means more ice time, more puck touches, more passing, more goals and more fun!

Q: Why half-ice?

A: Research shows that with kids aged 8-10, smaller spaces mean more playing time for Novice kids. In a study conducted by Hockey Alberta, kids get up to full-speed after around 65 feet, which helps their athleticism and will develop their top skating skill as they grow!

Q: What is the timeline for the change?

A: Half-ice games in Novice will become mandatory for the 2019-2020 season across Canada. However, many minor hockey associations are already making the change. See your local club for details on when they will be implementing the change to half-ice games for Novice hockey!

Q: Is there a cost increase or decrease?

A: The change to the Novice program should not affect cost in any way; cost increases or decreases will still be regulated by the minor hockey association. While the program will allow kids to have more ice time and more fun, there will be the same two teams, split in two, playing against each other. The move to half-ice is more focused on game play, not practice!

Q: How will tournaments work?

A: Many minor hockey associations run Novice jamborees, where players experience the fun of a tournament while playing half-ice games. Hockey Canada policy is that all Novice-aged games are half-ice including tournaments/jamborees. However, these decisions are made at the provincial level by each provincial body (Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Alberta, etc.).

Q: What if certain kids are above/below the average skill levels?

A: Minor hockey associations are encouraged to group skaters according to skill level, which will give every child the chance to develop their skills in the best possible environment. This will help the coaches in putting together practice plans and ultimately will ensure that all players are able to develop faster.

Q: What is the progression for my child?

A: Initiation (6-and-under) = cross-ice
Novice (8-and-under) = half-ice
Atom (10-and-under) = full-ice

Some minor hockey associations may have Novice kids play full-ice games late in their last Novice season to prepare for Atom.

Q: What if my/someone’s child is more advanced than the rest of their group?

A: Playing half-ice hockey is actually more beneficial for skaters who are above the average skill level of 8-and-under players. With a smaller ice surface, they cannot simply skate away from someone trying to get the puck-; it challenges them to work on their skills in small spaces.

Q: Will the move to half-ice games affect ice times at my arena?

A: The move will not affect scheduling in your local arena. The Novice program will feature two teams, split in half, playing two half-ice games at once. The two games use the entire surface of the ice, which will allow 20 active players on the ice at a time, rather than 12.

Q: Can older Novice players play full-ice before the move to Atom?

A: It is up to the minor hockey association and/or member branch your child plays with; however, Hockey Canada policy permits a transition to full-ice play for second-year Novice players in the second half of the season (after Jan. 15).

Q: What is the difference between a jamboree and a tournament?

A: A jamboree is designed to bring kids together to have fun on the ice! Kids will be placed onto teams, where the emphasis is not on winning, but having fun. Tournaments are held where three or more teams play against each other in an interlocking schedule, which eventually leads to a winner.

Q: Are smaller nets needed for half-ice games?

A: There’s no requirement for smaller nets in half-ice games. With goaltenders still in regulation-size pads, the regular nets (4x6) work just fine. If the minor hockey association chooses, smaller nets (3x4) are acceptable.

Q: Does a crease need to be drawn for the net in the neutral zone?

A: There’s no need for a crease for the neutral zone net. Each net should be placed just inside the centre circle, which gives the goaltender a marking to help position themselves! If there is no circle, you may draw one on the ice.

Q: What are the dimensions of a half-ice hockey game?

A: Half-ice game dimensions are based on an average ice surface of 200x85. With dividers placed on the centre line, a half-ice surface should be no larger than 100 feet by 85 feet.

For Officials and MHA's

Q: Do officials need to be registered?

A: Every minor hockey association can make that decision. Hockey Canada recommends that Novice half-ice games are an excellent way to introduce officials to the game!

Q: Do officials need to wear the full uniform?

A: All officials on the ice for Novice half-ice games are required to wear the minimum of an officiating jersey with member branch crest, black pants and a black CSA-approved helmet with CSA-approved visor.

Q: If there is an officiating shadow on the ice, do they need to wear an official uniform?

A: In the event where there is someone looking to shadow an on-ice official, it is appropriate for them to wear a tracksuit, along with the CSA-approved helmet and CSA-approved visor.

Q: What kind of support is there for novice coaches?

A: The NCCP Community Coach Stream - Coach 1 - Intro to Coach is designed for Novice coaches who need to understand the proper instructional approach with children at this age.

The NCCP Community Coach Stream is a two-part program.

Part 1 is Hockey University, which is a series of online training modules.

Part 2 is the Coach 1 - Intro to Coach in-class and on-ice portion.

Recognizing the necessity to provide a positive experience for young hockey players, the Community Coach Stream - Coach 1 - Intro to Coach clinic builds upon a number of values providing a qualitative experience, which include:

  1. Providing a safe environment in which to be introduced to fundamental skills.
  2. Developing an understanding of basic teamwork through participation in structured activities and adapted game-like situations.
  3. Introducing participants to the concepts of fair and cooperative play.
  4. Refining basic motor patterns and building self-confidence.
  5. Providing an environment that challenges individuals positively and rewards the participants for their efforts.
  6. Providing opportunities to experience a number of activities related in the building of a lifestyle of fitness and activity.

In addition to coach education, the Novice Skills Manual is a set of ice-session plans that are designed for the age-appropriate and skill-specific needs of young Novice players. These ice-session plans are available through the Hockey Canada Network and Hockey Canada Drill Hub .

Q: Are there specific guidelines to setting up/storing equipment like the half-ice dividers?

A: As every arena in Canada is unique, each will have its own system for storing and setting up Novice equipment. In some cases, municipalities have developed a standard that is kept across all arenas in their jurisdiction. It will be important to ensure safety protocols are kept at every facility, to ensure the best relationship between arena staff and members of the local minor hockey association.

Q: Where can arenas/minor hockey associations buy Novice half-ice dividers?

A: It is encouraged to check local sources in order to get the best possible price for shipping purposes, but if you’re looking on a national level, two suppliers can handle large-volume orders:

OmniSport Inc.
14 Boulder Blvd.
Stony Plain, AB
Telephone: 780-968-2344

Athletica Sport Systems Inc.
554 Parkside Drive
Waterloo, ON
N2L 5Z4
Telephone: 519-747-1856
Toll-free: 877-778-5911

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