CALGARY, Alta. –
Hockey Canada wants all of Canada on the same page when it comes to the
delivery of its Initiation Program – traditionally a player’s first brush
with organized hockey at the ages of five and six.
Although the Initiation Program – originally developed more than 35 years
ago – always recommended cross-ice or half-ice small-area games, its
delivery has varied from community to community. Beginning in the upcoming
2017-18 season, a new Hockey Canada policy now mandates that
Initiation-aged players receive age-appropriate programming on cross-ice or
“You would never put a five- or six-year-old child on a full-size soccer
pitch, or expect them to play basketball without any adjustments made for
their size. Hockey is no different,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of
membership development for Hockey Canada, who notes that while some
provinces and communities already deliver cross-ice programming at the
Initiation level, others have always utilized full ice for practices and
“The Initiation Program was developed to allow kids to have fun, learn
skills, and develop confidence,” said Carson. “Re-sizing the playing
surface to cross-ice or half-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 or
half-ice hockey are 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 two half-ice surfaces or three
cross-ice rinks, with options to create different small-area
configurations. Not only does re-sizing the playing surface allow for
Initiation-aged 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.
Hockey Canada and its 13 members across the country are coordinating on a
communication plan to ensure hockey administrators and coaches receive the
resources required to align with the new mandate.
Resources such as the
Hockey Canada Network
– a best-in-class skill-development resource geared to coaches – features
information on the purpose of cross-ice hockey and how to run effective
on-ice sessions for the five- and six-year-old Initiation age group.
Instruction on delivering age-appropriate programming will also be
available to coaches trained in the National Coaching Certification Program
(NCCP) Coach 1 – Intro Coach. This clinic, delivered by Hockey Canada’s 13
members, is geared towards coaches of entry-level players to provide
resources that will aid in the implementation of skill-development and game
Hockey Canada has also produced a video
that features renowned sport scientist Dr. Steve Norris; Olympic, World
Cup, world, and Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby (Cole Harbour,
N.S./Pittsburgh, NHL); Memorial Cup, World Cup, and IIHF World
Championship-winning coach Bill Peters (Three Hills, Alta./Carolina, NHL);
and Olympic gold-medallist and two-time IIHF Women’s World Championship
silver-medallist Brianne Jenner (Oakville, Ont./Calgary, CWHL) describing
the importance of small area games and cross-ice/half-ice hockey.
For more information on Hockey Canada and the
, please visit HockeyCanada.ca,
or follow along through social media onFacebook and Twitter.