Q&A: Do Canadians Really Check at Age 7?

We’re not just doling out advice to hockey parents here—we’re living the life. We’re at the practices, camps, games and tournaments, listening to the latest gossip and opinions about hockey development. Then, we go ask the experts for the real truth. For help with ADM issues, we turn to USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Joe Doyle, who we have actually made laugh out loud with the rumors we hear. See what he has to say about the idea that Canadians are checking at age 7.

Q. At a recent select tournament for Squirts, I heard U.S. parents, players and even coaches complaining that Canadians learn body checking at age 7, and that’s why they’re “so far ahead” of the United States in hockey. Could that be true?

A. First of all, Canada’s hockey governing body, Hockey Canada, lets provinces determine what age to start body checking and as such it varies throughout Canada. In Quebec, players start at Bantam (13–14) while in Alberta they start at Atom (9–10).

Interestingly enough, Hockey Canada has taken an intensive look at USA Hockey’s recent age change and is considering similar guidance. As important, what separates hockey players at any age is their skating, shooting and puck-handling skills—so isolating a skill like body checking and trying to point to that as a reason players may be ahead makes no sense. That said, it is doubtful players anywhere are focusing on body checking at age 7 in lieu of all-important skating, shooting and puck handling.

In fact, Hockey Canada recently came out with a long-term athlete development document that very much mirrors the ADM, focusing on age-appropriate training that is very much individual skill focused at the younger ages. Most likely, at any age level, the reason a group of players are ahead of another group is because they skate better, handle the puck better—and consequently make more plays that result in the puck ending up in the back of the net more often—not because they are better at body checking. Period.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Joe Doyle for assistance with this story.

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