This year marks several changes in the rules and regulations for Foothills minor hockey teams, with the aim of making the sport more approachable and fun for the kids involved.
On October this year a minor hockey team from Ontario managed to defeat another local squad 41-0, which opened a discussion on what steps minor hockey leagues can take to avoid discouraging and crushing defeats among younger participants.
Foothills Minor Hockey Novice Director John Mackenzie says, some new changes this year include half ice rules, to help keep the pace of the game constant and engaging.
"There's no score keeping, there's a lot faster game play, there's very few referee whistles. When a goal is scored, the referee basically tosses the puck back in the corner and it's just a continuous play."
These changes to the "Intro to Hockey" (which encompasses children aged 5-8, in the Initiation and Novice levels), are mandatory next year, however the Foothills Minor Hockey League has decided to implement and jump start the new rules set this year.
Mackenzie says so far, the feedback is favorable to the changes.
"Because of the half ice rules the kids get more bang for their buck so to speak. The kids absolutely love it. There were parents that were hesitant at first and those were the ones that dealt with full ice last year. So they didn't really know what to expect, however after talking with them, after their kids have played a little bit, they love it too. So, their kids are having fun, they're responding well and their skill levels have all gone up immediately. There's a lot of skating with a full ice, but with half ice, there is a lot of starting and stopping with the puck, giving them more time to handle it and practice skills."
Along with the half ice rules, Mackenzie says the league was careful with splitting kids into appropriate tiers, to assure each team was balanced.
"So this whole 'Intro to Hockey' thing is new to the parents and new to the kids this year, so it was kind of a big thing. So we had a tournament at the beginning of the year to test it out and see how it went. A second reason why we hosted a tournament to start the year was to see if the kids were evenly distributed amongst the teams for equal play."
Mackenzie says the ultimate goal of the rule changes at this level, is to assure kids are able to enjoy the sport and build their skills.
"It just takes that competitive edge away from the game and allows the kids just to focus on having fun and playing hockey."