Hockey Manitoba taking small ice for young kids a step further

Hockey Canada is making it mandatory that its youngest players get introduced to the game on pint-sized ice surfaces, but the just-announced policy isn't anything new in Manitoba. 

Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods said that change was made in Manitoba about two years ago and they plan to take it a step further.

"Hockey Manitoba certainly supports it. This is a national initiative that's gone across the country now," he said.

"We introduced this regulation into our program two years ago, so we've been operating under that premise for the last two years, so the rest of the country is just catching up to us right now."

Hockey Canada said the mandatory policy of half-ice, or cross-ice, for its initiation programs for five and six-year-olds will take effect for the 2017-18 season.

Woods said Manitoba Hockey received a little bit of pushback when the initiative was first brought in, but the results speak for themselves.

"Anytime you make the space a little bit smaller you are increasing the pace of the game, so that means the reaction times for players have to be increased," he said.

Kids are having more contact time with the puck, pushing players to refine their skills.

Woods said Manitoba is taking one more step moving seven and eight-year-olds to half-ice, too.

"It's just a progression, so they will be doing that for the first half of the season up until Dec. 31, and from Jan. 1 on they will be playing full ice. So it's a transition," Woods said.

"It's an opportunity for them to still refine their skills at a smaller ice-surface level and then expand that after the new year into the full-ice."

While there may be a bit of backlash to begin with, Woods said he expects the change to also be embraced not only in Manitoba but across the country.