2013 Memorial Cup: Halifax Mooseheads, including Nathan MacKinnon, see logic of Hockey Canada peewee bodychecking ban

SASKATOON, Sask. — To find rational, reasonable takes on Hockey Canada banning body checking at the peewee level, ask people involved in high-level hockey instead of scouring Twitter.

Halifax Mooseheads co-captain Stefan Fournier, star centre Nathan MacKinnon and coach Dominique Ducharme each said they were onside with the recommendations that were passed on Saturday. It's not just an across-the-board ban, but recommendations also include "progressive implementation of checking skills at the atom and peewee level and to better prepare players for body checking at the bantam and midget level."

Alberta and Nova Scotia's provincial associations removed bodychecking in peewee (ages 11 and 12) recently. Quebec, where the 21-year-old Fournier played his minor hockey, has not allowed it at that age group since the 1980s.

"There was in summer hockey, which I found was completely acceptable," Fournier said on Saturday. "I think personally for me it keeps people's heads up, it gives awareness. When you're a peewee hockey player the game's not as fast and you learn to keep your head up. That does limit head injuries.

"For me, there's one regard where it makes people aware," the right wing added. "But at the other token, if people are saying that too many kids at the peewee level are getting hurt, they [Hockey Canada] have to go by their own judgement."

The 17-year-old MacKinnon, who played up in the bantam age group when he was peewee-aged, said he believed

"I think they know what they're doing," the Cole Harbour, N.S., native said. "Hockey Canada is a respected organization and they put a lot of thought into it."

As emotionally fraught as the issue is, minor hockey, like any consumer good, needs to be tweaked in order to maintain sales. A manufacturer of a children's toy that was found to pose health hazards would adjust accordingly. Hockey Canada's move is not motivated by the aim to reduce brain injuries, but to improve the sport's relatively poor retention rate once boys reach puberty. Putting off checking, while overhauling how giving and taking contact is learned and taught, might keep the smaller boy who doesn't grow until his mid-teens in the game.

"They've studied the cases and a lot of that [injuries] comes from the difference in size between kids at that age," said Ducharme, who was named Canadian Hockey League coach of the year on Saturday. "The more the players at a younger age can work on their skills without worrying about getting body checking and about the weight and height difference, I think maybe in the long run, it might just help players develop with even better skills."

Ducharme's counterpart in Sunday's Memorial Cup final, Portland Winterhawks skipper Travis Green, deferred to the empirical evidence.

"I don't know if it's fair for me to comment, to be honest," said Green, who had a 970-game NHL career. "I know they've done a lot a research on it and whatever they have decided is for the best in the game, in their minds. I'm sure they've researched through and through. I would trust the people who are making the decisions."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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