Jack Lee believes his idea’s time has come, and it’s only a matter of time before Hockey Canada agrees with him.
The Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador president is confident he can get the governing body for amateur hockey in the country to go along with his idea of changing the minor hockey age brackets to where they were before 2001, and that is: atom — 10-11 years; peewee — 12-13; bantam — 14-15 and midget — 16-17.
“Some are turned off by contact, and also if you are a 15-year-old kid and you have ambitions to go to another level but you don’t make major midget, you’re done.”
Lee also said there’s no reason for contact in non-competitive hockey.
“And that’s coming,” he promised.
The provincial hockey boss said right now the chances of getting the age groups changed by Hockey Canada at the Victoria Day long weekend meeting are really good.
He said he had a couple of conversations with former Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson before he stepped down and became vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group.
“He was thinking the same way and he said I should put this to the floor at a Hockey Canada’s meeting because it might have some legs.
“If Ontario jumps on board, you’re laughing,” said Lee.
Lee believes changing age groups and eliminating body checking at some stages and divisions will greatly benefit the growth and development of the game, namely attracting new Canadians to hockey.
“But how do you attract them when they think it isn’t a safe sport?”
Lee also said it is Hockey Canada’s, Hockey NL’s and everyone’s fault, “because we’re not teaching the kids how to check.
“A few years ago, you did a checking clinic when you reached peewee. They put you on the ice for an hour and then said, ‘Go ahead, you can check now.’
“Forget the checking, it’s how to protect yourself.”
He said there’s a new program that was released during the summer which will be available this winter to teach kids in atom that will prepare them for the higher age groups regarding how to check and take a check.
Lee, who got to make his points on the subject last week on Bob McCown’s radio talk show on Sportsnet, said “It’s all about education now.”
He said hockey needs to be about fun and developing the young players, certainly if you want to keep the kids involved as they go up through the ranks. A lot of people say that but you get the impression Lee actually means it.
“I’m more pro-active than reactive,” said Lee. “And, in my opinion, we’ll develop hockey players a lot better and keep them longer if we change the age divisions back to prior to 2001.
“I see it as a concern and I’m sure other people see it as a concern, so if we’re not pro-active, we’re going to be reacting to something that’s going to happen down the road.
“My philosophy is to be pro-active and try to get where you want to get. And if you get close to where you want to get, you’re doing a good job.”
I get it.