Mayo Clinic recommends banning checking for Bantam-aged hockey players

Precautions normally seen in football are expanding in the hockey world.

The Mayo Clinic gave new recommendations Wednesday in an effort to lower the risk of concussions for hockey players.

Bantam hockey, in which kids are generally in 8th and 9th grades, is an age where size differences among players can be enormous.

“And there’s such a disparity between the little wee kid who’s 13 and 14 and the kid who’s shaving,” said Dr. Aynsley Smith, of the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic’s lead researcher into ice hockey says there’s no reason they need to be checking and a lot of reasons they shouldn’t.

“It’s a healthier thing and if we really want to grow the game, we’ve got to stop seeking violence and promoting it and encouraging the kids to absolutely staple the opponent,” Smith added.

No checking at the Bantam level is one of the recommendations made by the Mayo Clinic to prevent and treat concussions. Also, doctors there are advocating for concussion databases across all levels.

In addition, they recommend enforcing ejections for fighting, better diagnostic tests and mandatory baseline testing to help make those diagnoses.

At most rinks, you’ll find mid-day adult drop-in hockey and there is no checking, but where you can easily find the debate over bantams checking.

“I could go both ways on that,” said a hockey parent. “In one way, I think the younger they learn how to check, the safer the game is when they get older.”

A lot of parents and youth coaches believe it’s a part of the game and it’s safer if learned sooner.

“I think you need to learn how to do that and protect yourself on the ice,” said another parent. “And I don’t see any real upside to delaying that until they’re bigger and stronger.”

“I can say that USA Hockey, Minnesota Hockey are both taking a hard look at it,” said Glen Adresen, of USA Hockey.

USA Hockey, which encompasses Minnesota Hockey, took checking out of Peewee hockey seven years ago to similar criticisms, but they hear few complaints now.

Doing the same at Bantams has been discussed a lot more the past couple of years and the Mayo Clinic has just put more fuel on that fire.

“Do we remove all checking or is it the certain blow-up hits or things like that,” said Glen Andresen, the Executive Director of Minnesota Hockey. “So, there’s a lot to be done beyond the dissuasions at the winter meetings in Orlando.”