Should body-checking be eliminated from minor hockey in Edmonton?
Published Friday, March 8, 2013 5:31PM MST Last Updated Friday, March 8, 2013 6:40PM MST
A video showing a brutal hit from behind on a player in the Swiss Hockey League is catching the attention of hockey fans in Edmonton, and renewing calls by some parents for a ban on body-checking.
It happened in just seconds but doctors say Ronny Keller, the 33-year-old player who was chucked into the boards during a playoff hockey game, will likely never be able to walk again.
It comes as the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association puts out a survey to its members that includes whether checking should remain in the sport or be restricted to certain ages.
Bill LaForge, program director for the Mount Carmel Hockey Academy, says education is a better route as opposed to an outright ban.
“We have kids in the academy that gets hurt all the time, skiing, skateboarding or any other sport. You can never take away all the risk, so I think we want to do everything we can to educate,” LaForge said.
“Body-checking is part of the game. It’s what makes hockey, hockey.”
Fifteen-year-old player Evan Wood says it’s just a matter of being careful.
“You always have to be prepared to take a hit and you always have to be prepared to deliver a hit,” Wood said.
“It’s part of the culture. It’s part of the way we’ve played the game.”
But hockey mom Suzanne Brook, who has two sons in a hockey division where contact is allowed, says checking should be banned.
“Most of these kids who are playing Edmonton minor hockey are not even going to make the NHL. They’re playing hockey because they enjoy playing hockey and to have a life-threatening injury because they’re playing a game they love… I would love to see contact taken out of hockey for these kids,” Brook said.
She adds that the thought of one of her boys being injured is something that often crosses her mind when they play.
“If they can take hitting out of hockey, it would be more enjoyable for the kids and more enjoyable for the parents.”
'You have to think, split second, is it worth it?'
The hit on Keller is similar to one that happened to Edmonton native Aaron Moser, who was 18-years-old and playing for the Nanaimo Clippers when he was clipped into the boards in 1998.
Moser became a quadriplegic after the hit, living with virtually no movement in his body.
He still remembers the day doctors said his life would never be the same.
“It’s probably one of the most disappointing things you can hear.” Moser said.
“Each spinal cord is different. In the case of mine and the case in the guy that just happened, when your spinal cord is severed, there’s no chance of getting full recovery.”
And even though a hit changed Moser’s life, he still thinks checking is still an important part of the game – but only if it’s done right.
“There are hits where you know the play is over. There has to be that little bit in the back of the mind, hopefully the kids are going to learn growing up, that you kind of have to think, split second, is it worth it?” Moser said.
“He’s a couple metres away from the boards, if he’s against the boards yeah I’d finish it but that far away from the boards there’s a chance he’s going to go headfirst, so instead maybe just lightly rub him out or play the puck. Hitting or fighting, it’s the part of the game. It has to be in there.”
The Edmonton Minor Hockey Association says at this point, there’s no timeline for when it will share feedback of the survey or act on the results of the survey, but the association tells CTV News there has been a strong response from members so far.
With files from Jeff Harrington