Black or Blue?

What kid that plays baseball doesn’t dream of hitting a home run? Hockey’s equivalent is probably picking the upper corner to score a goal. In order for that big hit to be a home run, the fence needs to be moved in considerably. Most Mites need a similar accommodation and that is the Blue Puck.

About five years ago, USA Hockey issued a suggestion that the Blue Puck be used for Squirts and a requirement that it be used for Mites. So just exactly what is a Blue Puck, and why don’t we see more of them?

A regular puck weighs six ounces; the blue one is 25 percent less. For kids that are still a few years away from getting their strength, a Blue Puck is easier to handle, easier to pass, and much easier to shoot. Going “top shelf” becomes possible. The idea behind USA Hockey’s recommendation is that making the game more fun for more players at the beginning levels will result in accelerated skill development and increased retention.

Followers of the NHL know the league isn’t just for North Americans like it was through the 1970s. Rosters today include scores of Scandinavians, Russians, and Czechs. Finns and Swedes play Blue Puck through age 10, and Czechs use it too but it is not required.

Critics cite tradition (“we don’t have any problems with the black puck”) and logistics (“just one more thing to keep track of”), but usually focus mainly on the different playing characteristics of the Blue Puck. Simply put, it bounces. I grew up playing lots of outdoor hockey with no gear. As a result, there were no “lifters.” Sometimes we would mix it up and play with a tennis ball or ultra-light “sponge” puck. These too have far different playing characteristics, but I can assure you it was just as much fun.

USA Hockey terms this a mandate and not just a recommendation. Recently they have made it a point of emphasis to monitor use of the Blue Puck at the Mite level. It is still unclear what penalty will be for noncompliance, but don’t be surprised if you see more of the Blue Puck in the future. Our sport’s national governing body has asked that everyone give it a chance, at least long enough to let the kids decide if they like it.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to John Conley of the Florida Youth Hockey Report: The Fire for this story. Click here to see back issues of The Fire.

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