I know this won’t be a popular idea. Raising the checking age in boys’ hockey hasn’t been popular either, but it is the right thing to do. Adversaries argue checking is fundamental to the game (read: the game, meaning men’s hockey which is the real hockey anyway). Big hits are exciting. Hockey isn’t hockey without checking. Taking checking out of hockey or raising the checking age makes it”wimpy”–code for: it will resemble women’s hockey, and feminizes males. (Read the USA Hockey column titled “Changing The Checking Age Does Not Soften Our Sport.” ). Males won’t want to play. It will put the USA at a competitive disadvantage. Nobody will pay for or watch hockey without checking… the counterarguments are many.
I play hockey. I am a hockey player in the largest women’s hockey league in the world (WHAM). I live in the State of Hockey (that is Minnesota for those who don’t know what I’m talking about). I am a hockey fan. I give hockey coach and sport parent workshops. I have researched psychosocial variables in hockey. I spent a good part of 2011 being part of discussions about concussions, and making a documentary on sport-related concussions. I get and understand the game of hockey.
If you know hockey, you know that checking is not allowed in women’s hockey. I favor that rule, even though I know many women want to have the opportunity to check, and at elite levels checking, er…I mean heavy body contact, does occur so why not make it legal. I have long thought checking should not be a part of any level or hockey, regardless of gender. If you make the argument that females shouldn’t check because it is dangerous, then why do we allow it in male hockey? Rather than argue that not letting females check is an outdated paternalistic rule, I’d rather argue another point. ( I will add however, that getting rid of checking for males, eliminates the idea that women’s hockey is “less than” or “not real hockey” because there is no checking, which could be a different blog).
KEY POINT: Are we less concerned with the health and well being of males? Do we feel it is OK to have males increase the likelihood of injury for our entertainment? Is putting males at increased risk for injury part of what it means to “be a man”?
I decided to write this blog because within a one week span here in Minnesota, two high school athletes have been severely injured as a result of checking. St. Croix Lutheran senior Jenna Privette suffered a serious spinal cord injury when she was checked from behind after taking shot and crashed into the boards. Jack Jablonski of Benilde-St. Margaret’s was paralyzed after he was legally checked into the boards. Would either of these injuries be prevented with a no checking rule or a much stronger stance on illegal checking from behind? I don’t know. What I do know is that FAR FEWER injuries would occur if checking were eliminated from male hockey, and through widespread educational efforts checking would be strongly discouraged and penalized in female hockey, and hockey in general.
Having the discussion is a worthy endeavor, regardless of if you agree with my premise or not.