Hockey Canada is about to travel down a tumultuous path, according to Don Cherry.
The candid Coach’s Corner commentator used his Hockey Night in Canada segment on Saturday night to explain why he disagreed with the sport's national governing body’s decision to ban hitting at the peewee level.
“You [Hockey Canada] have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Cherry said. “You’re gonna be sorry. You watch and see, you will be sorry.”
Hockey Canada’s board of directors voted and announced earlier Saturday it will eliminate bodychecking up until the bantam level across the country, in an effort to curb injuries and concussions. The changes will take effect for the 2013-14 season starting in September.
The announcement has come with mixed reviews, including Cherry. His reasons for being upset with the ruling?
The Hockey Night in Canada personality believes it might actually have an adverse effect on the health of young players. Instead of having the desired result of minimizing injury risk, Cherry thinks it will make things worse as they get older — and become exposed to hitting at higher levels — due to lack of experience and preparation.
“It would be perfect if all the kids went along [through the minor league levels], with no hitting, and went into a league with no hitting,” Cherry said. “But what’s going to happen is these kids are going to go up to [age] 13, and then they’re going to go in with kids that hit.
“And they don’t know how to protect themselves, they’re going to go out there…when you’re not hitting, you have your head down.”
Ban in Alberta
Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean brought up the fact Hockey Canada had found that Alberta — which has already banned bodychecking in its province — had hitting in peewee but still had as many player injuries at the bantam level, which he said meant the kids weren’t better prepared for the physicality of hitting.
Cherry was quick to shoot that notion down.
“You believe that? Think about these kids not knowing how to protect themselves, not going into the corners [properly],” Cherry said. “I’ve talked to coaches [who coach 13-year-olds] and they tell the kids, ‘you can hit now.’ And the kids say ‘we can hit now!?’, and they’re wild. They can hardly wait.”
“All you have to do is you want a separate league [for no hitting], a house league is perfect,” he said. “But you cannot throw kids in that don’t know how [to protect themselves].”