Concussion concerns cause hockey league to ban body checks

Mar 20, 2015

It's something that many hope could lead to a gradual and fundamental change in Canada's national sport: Canada's largest minor hockey league is phasing out body checking at the Bantam level. The move is being made in the face of growing medical evidence about concussions.

Checking is allowed at the Bantam Level for boys teams in Western New York, at least one league in Canada is considering a ban on checking.
Credit WBFO Photo

As of next year, the 12 and 13-year-old hockey players at many Toronto-area hockey rinks literally won't be able to throw their weight around, at least in contact with other players.

The Greater Toronto Hockey League last year conducted a survey after members voted against a ban on body checking. This year it was a different story, with a majority vote of 326 to 195 in favor of phasing it out.

Doctors now say there is what they describe as a mountain of evidence that shows the negative effects of body checking in hockey which can account for 50 percent of the all concussions.

Scott Oakman the executive director of the league, says getting rid of body checking could actually be good for the game.
 
"There were stats to show that there's growth in the game when body checking is removed,” Oakman said.  
“Especially in the lower levels so that's an important sat for us to pay attention."

The decision didn't come without a fight.   Many parents and players say they won't participate without body checking; they say it just won't be the same game. It's almost part of the culture.

But doctors say taking out the body checks could mean three times fewer injuries.

The move will come into effect for the 2015-16 season starting with the A-level of competition

It's not clear yet if and when the ban would be adopted in the more competitive triple-A and double-A levels.

The Greater Toronto Hockey League is the largest minor league in the world with more than 40,000 young players.