Just a couple years ago USA Hockey banned body checking at the Pee Wee (12 and under) level, based in part on evidence that the risks of concussion and other serious injury resulting from body checking was simply unacceptable. The primary reason USA Hockey made the change, however, was to promote skill development at an age where kids are still developing, and because that development was being hindered by aggressive play intended to intimidate opponents and a winning-at-all-costs mentality. In making the rule change, USA Hockey assumed that all kids play because they want to develop their skills. I think that the majority simply want to play.
Will extending the ban on body checking in hockey to age 14 and better rules enforcement make the game safer? Perhaps we need to take a different approach, argues a longtime youth hockey official.