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Published January 11, 2012, 02:14 PM

Coaches Aim to Educate Young Hockey Players on Checking

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - With two recent, serious hockey injuries in Minnesota, more focus is being placed on checking and safety in the youth hockey world.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - With two recent, serious hockey injuries in Minnesota, more focus is being placed on checking and safety in the youth hockey world.

This is the first year pee wee players can't check. Players can start checking in Bantam, when they're 13 years old. This is the first step for USA hockey to move toward their new model of play.

Coaches and players agree there are risks in playing the sport. But education is key to preventing serious injury.

"Making sure they're ready for impact, they're not turning their backs in a bad situation and putting themselves in that vulnerable area," Central High School Boy's Varsity Hockey Coach Tony Bina said.

Bina says it's most important to teach younger kids, at the pee wee and squirt level, how to hit.

"How to do it the right way, how to take a check. And I don't think we've done a great job as coaches teaching it at an early enough age so when they get to that Pee Wee and that Bantam level, they're able to withstand some of the hits," Bina said.

But USA Hockey's rules have changed. Coaches, players, and league officials at the pee wee level have had to adjust.

"As they grow into checking, that it would just be a physical contact. And their reason that they would like to see it is to have the kids where they would just ride the kid off the puck and not concentrate on knocking somebody down," Grand Forks Park District Superintendent of Recreation Bill Palmiscno said.

Bina says teaching proper body contact is vital to young player development.

"If we follow through and do it and coach these kids and teach these kids, I think it will be better. But if we don't educate them still on the body contact, we're just going to prolong the inevitable," Bina said.

Pee Wees are now learning how to separate a player from the puck to gain possession without the big shoulder to shoulder hits. Bina hopes teaching that skill early will help prevent serious injuries later.

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