Changes are coming to novice hockey in Canada, but Chestermere kids will be the early adopters.
Hockey Canada is adjusting the way novice games will be competed for the 2019-2020 season, but the Chestermere Minor Hockey Association will get ahead of the curve and institute the new system a year early.
For the upcoming fall season, the novice division will be split into 2010- and 2011-born players, with the younger group adopting the new system so they are prepared for the full change next year. The older novice players will still play under the old system.
“What they are doing is making it more developmental,” said CMHA president Shane Hainstock. “There won’t be full games, it will be half ice.
“Players will be on the ice more, approximately twice as much compared to a full-ice game. You will be able to develop more goalies, because you will be dressing two goalies per game.
“You will play four-on-four instead of five-on-five. There’s really no faceoffs, just one at the beginning of halfs. You are playing two games really, as the teams will switch sides halfway through. You are playing half the team on one side and half of the team on the other side.”
Seeing as how the kids are smaller, they should fit better on a smaller ice surface. Because of a tight space, they will be forced to work on puckhandling, passing and turning on their skates.
“The stats are showing that there is three times more passing,” Hainstick said. “And it’s a tighter game, so they work the edges of their skates more because it’s a smaller area.”
The biggest benefit though is for getting interest in kids playing goal. There is a shortage of goalies through minor hockey systems in Alberta, so much so that Hockey Calgary has set up goalie camps the past few years to get kids interested in getting between the pipes.
The CMHA is hoping that with more novice players able to try playing goal, the more will want to continue once they graduate to atom and beyond.
Right now, there are just enough goalies to cover all the teams throughout the levels of minor hockey. In bantam, there were four goalies for the four teams, while atom had six netminders and six teams. In midget, five goalies covered the three teams, and in peewee there were nine goalies over six teams.
Those weren’t good ratios and leaves very little wiggle room if one of them is sick or away.
“At the novice level they have it so there are no set goalies,” Hainstock said. “The way it’s set up there are 20 games in this new format so there are 40 opportunities for kids to play in goal, just in their proposed game ratio to practice.
“It’s 2-to-1 games to practices. It’s perfect for development. If you have a team of 16 kids, there are some that won’t want to play, but there are many that will want to try it, and it’s a good opportunity to get a couple of practices in and then play in the game.”
The CMHA has been talking to other associations to see which ones will be adopting the new regulations for this upcoming season, and they will be looking at hosting a ‘jamboree’ at the start of the campaign to get things moving.