03/11/2015 11:07 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Hockey Quebec expands ban on body checking

Starting next season, there will be fewer hits in hockey arenas across the province because the Quebec hockey federation says it's removing checking for some players aged 13 to 17.

Even though at the NHL level, big body checks are part of the game, Hockey Quebec says there are some levels of play where hitting doesn't belong.

“Every time there is body checking, there is more of a risk of injury, and by reducing two levels definitively, the risk is minimized,” said Paul Menard, director of player development with Hockey Quebec.

Right now, there is no checking allowed at the peewee level for children 11 and 12 years old.

Starting next year, the ban will be extended to Bantam CC, which is the lowest of the five competitive divisions played by 13 and 14 year olds.

It will also be banned in the lowest level of the four Midget divisions for children between 15 and 17 years old.

A first in Canada

Changes to body checking rules have been happening in provinces across the country, but Quebec is the first one to remove it at the Midget level.

However, not everyone agrees that taking hitting out of the game is the right move.

“It doesn't make sense to have the kids hitting in Bantam and then take it away in Midget, said Johnny Valvano, president of the St. Leonard Minor Hockey. “We already teach the kids how to hit. It’s safe."

A greater impact

However, some experts say Hockey Quebec is on the right track.

“I think they clearly understood the science behind this decision, which is that we know there is a direct relationship between bodychecking and concussions,” said Dave Ellemburg, a neuropsychologist at the University of Montreal.  

Ellemburg says the ban targets the age group which is most vulnerable.

“A concussion when you're 13, 16, 18, actually has a greater impact on your brain than if you're younger or older.”

Hockey Quebec says since the ban only applies to the lowest levels of Bantam and Midget, it will protect about 2,000 players from excessive contact.

They say it won't affect players who have hopes of making it to the NHL because the elite levels will still have hitting.