Chuck Kuepfer, Staff Reporter
Local Peewee, Midget and Bantam players that want to continue to play hockey above the house league level, but don’t want to engage in body checking, now have an option.
A new league, the Safe Rep Hockey League, has been formed by the Canadian International Hockey Federation, a governing body not affiliated with Hockey Canada, as a response to concerns about concussions from body checks to the head.
“We’re looking to address one of the biggest areas of neglect, for lack of a better term, with kids who want to play rep hockey… and want to play at that high level but don’t want to play body checking,” said CIHF director Peter Cardo.
The SRHL offers no body checking rep hockey that not only provides a safe environment, but also focuses on the skills required to play the game.
Beginning this fall, Waterloo Region is one of five centres that have been established for the 2012-2013 season.
Teams will also play out of Barrie, Halton, Toronto, Hamilton and London.
An informational night was held in Kitchener recently to help get the word out about the league.
“We did have over 60 people come out who are totally supportive and looking to sign their kids up,” said Cardo, who indicated there is a lot of interest in the SRHL. “We’re getting bombarded. A lot of parents and players have said it’s a fantastic idea. It’s long overdue.”
The local teams, to be known as the Kitchener-Waterloo Coyotes, will draw from surrounding communities including Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford and all areas in between.
“In each centre our goal is to have four Peewee, four Bantam and four Midget teams,” said Cardo.
SRHL teams will play a 29-game schedule, with away games scheduled on the weekends.
Tryouts will be held during the summer.
Those wanting to play in the league are encouraged to sign up soon.
The season also includes 20 practices and off-ice sessions as well.
Cardo indicated registration costs are comparable with local minor hockey associations.
“The one big thing that we offer that a lot of the other leagues don’t is professional training,” he said. “We’re engaging and providing the kids with professional trainers as their coaches.”
As per its name, the SRHL aims to provide a safe hockey experience for players amidst concerns about the prevalence of concussions in hockey, many which are the direct result of a body check to the head.
“Hockey is continually changing and it always has,” says Cardo. “The game is always changing and evolving to meet the needs of everybody.”
There is a growing belief as documented in the national media, that hockey without body checking is “kind of the way of the future for the majority of kids who play hockey,” says Cardo.
He noted that in regards to concussions, some reports indicate kids who play contact hockey are four times more
likely to get a concussion than kids who don’t.
“Parents are kind of saying well my son’s not going to the NHL so let’s get him playing in a league that’s safe,” says Cardo. “There’s no question in my mind, I believe this will become one of the most popular league’s in the province within the next couple of years. I think you’ll see a lot of people jump on this big time.”
More information about the SRHL is available at www.cihfhockey.com.