Hockey Canada says kids 5 and 6 must play on smaller ice surface

Hockey Canada has decided all five and six year olds must play hockey on a smaller ice surface.

The new rule will be put in place at the beginning of the 2017-2018 season and will mandate all players receive "age-appropriate programming on cross-ice or half-ice surfaces," according to a media release.

 "You would never put a five- or six-year-old child on a full-size soccer pitch, or expect them to play basketball without any adjustments made for their size. Hockey is no different," said Hockey Canada vice-president of membership development Paul Carson.

Keeping kids on a smaller rink had been a recommendation from the hockey organization for more than 35 years and is meant to help younger players learn skills and have fun while developing confidence.

Rinks can be easily split up using special boards and bumpers and players receive five times more passes and six times more shots on half-ice, according to Hockey Canada.

"Kids who don't touch the puck aren't having fun," explained Ian Taylor from the Ontario Minor Hockey Association. "If they're not involved in the action, they may not enjoy the sport as much, and they may be less inclined to come back."