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USA Hockey Raises Checking Age and Other Links

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LAKE PLACID NY - AUGUST 04: Nick Bjugstad #15 (R) of Team USA scores at 7:16 of the first period against Team Finland at the USA Hockey National Evaluation Camp on August 4 2010 in Lake Placid New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAKE PLACID NY - AUGUST 04: Nick Bjugstad #15 (R) of Team USA scores at 7:16 of the first period against Team Finland at the USA Hockey National Evaluation Camp on August 4 2010 in Lake Placid New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This won't be anything knew to the Canadian members of PPP, but for the American followers yesterday marked a big change in US youth hockey. That's because the USA Hockey Board of Directors overwhelmingly voted to eliminate body checking at the peewee level (ages 11-12) in an effort to further skill development and ease players into body checking. Chemmy has a great write up about it at The Leafs Nation:

Expect the usual knuckle draggers to say that we're "pussifying" the game or we're turning players into "sissies". I feel genuinely sorry for any kids being coached by these people. Want proof that this is the right move? Even guys like Mike Milbury, fresh off of making an oh so witty "Sedin Sisters" joke, doesn't think raising the checking age "softens" the sport:

"Don’t get me wrong. I love the physical part of the game, but I believe the introduction of physical play into the game should come at a deliberate pace. It starts with teaching body contact — rubbing, bumping, edging out and gaining proper positioning on an opponent — rather than focusing on hard hits." - Mike Milbury

We want to keep kids safe and we want more kids playing hockey instead of quitting our sport because they're worried about getting hurt. Kudos to USA Hockey for taking what will prove to be an unpopular stance. It's the right one.

It was absolute the right move on USA Hockey's part. Expect to see participation numbers at the peewee level and up rise considerably within the next two years, and to see better skilled American players making a big impact at the upper levels a few years down the line.

More links after the jump.

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