Make the right impact

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Our goal is to eliminate thousands of serious brain and spinal injuries affecting Canadian kids each year.

Collectively and individually, our lawyers and staff give their time and money participating in charitable activities and advocacy, serving on boards and committees, and fundraising.


In the last few years, there have been a number of high-profile incidents that have led to questions about the safety in sport, hockey culture and head injuries. These questions have been answered with clear empirical evidence.

%
%

of all injuries in minor hockey can be attributed to bodychecking


kids and youth will suffer brain injuries in a hockey season

%

Bodychecking leads to a 300% increase in concussions, making it the main cause of injury in minor hockey

Estimated # of injuries prevented if body checking banned for peewee players across Canada

$.1B

Estimated annual cost to Canada’s health care system from sport and recreation injuries among children and youth

%

of Canadians support eliminating bodychecking from Bantam Hockey

We have developed a campaign to raise awareness and communicate the findings and evidence that must be put into practice to improve public health.

Our strategy is all about listening to the experts and working with organizations to bring about sensible changes to the rules.

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During my career, I have had a front row seat to the devastating impact of traumatic brain injuries. The increase in concussions and spinal cord injuries arising from legal body checks in youth hockey galvanized me to action.

Read more about Mike's commitment

Get in touch with
Michael G. Thomas

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BARRISTERS & SOLICITORS

3200•650 West Georgia Street

Vancouver BC, Canada V6B 4P7

Tel. 604 687 0411•Fax 604 669 9385

MICHAEL G. THOMAS

DIRECT LINE: 604 895 2873

mthomas@harpergrey.com

www.harpergrey.com

Re:   Body Checking at the Bantam Level

We have initiated an informational campaign, in conjunction with national and regional partners, on the unnecessary increase in concussions and spinal cord injuries arising from legal body checks in youth hockey at the Bantam level. This campaign has included radio, newspaper and television articles, online comments, and a video which has been viewed over 50,000 times on social media. Numerous concerned associations, organizations and individuals directly and indirectly involved with youth hockey have added their support. I have enclosed a schedule with this letter listing the associations, organizations and individuals that have asked that their names be brought forward endorsing this letter.

Legal body checking is the predominant mechanism of injury among youth hockey players, accounting for 45 to 86 percent of all injuries. This is particularly true with concussions and spinal cord injuries. Leagues that allow body checking have over three times the rate of more serious injuries (injuries which require one week or longer recovering from), more suspensions, and significantly more incidences of poor on ice behaviour. Introducing body checking at the Bantam level creates an unacceptable risk of injury. Youth aged from 1314 have the largest discrepancies in weight, height and power. As an age cohort, Bantam hockey players are at the greatest risk for injuries from body checking.

Due to the particular vulnerability of this age cohort, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that body checking be prohibited from all age groups lower than 15. The AAP policy notes as follows:

Boys who play ice hockey in leagues that allow body checking are two to three times more the likely to suffer serious injuries and concussions compared to boys in nonchecking programs.
Body checking in youth hockey constitutes a preventable harm in a sport that has the potential to be a lifelong activity.
The potential discrepancy in the sizes of 13 and 14 year old boys competing against each other in a collision sport makes this age cohort particularly vulnerable to body checking related injuries. There is an enormous range in size and strength between an underdeveloped late blooming 13 year old, who has yet to start puberty, and a 14 year old who reached puberty at age 11 or 12. The potential size and strength difference is not nearly as great at any other two year age span.

Hockey Canada has taken the positive step of banning body checking from the Peewee level and has set up committees to ensure that youth are taught how to properly give and receive a body check. However, empirical evidence suggests that earlier introduction of body checking has no statistical effect on reducing or preventing injuries caused from body checking; in fact, leagues that postponed body checking had a lower rate of injury in leagues in which delayed body checking was allowed. There is no empirical support for the “learn to take a hit” policy endorsed by Hockey Canada. Allowing body checking does not teach a skill, it impedes skill development because players focus on hitting and avoiding being hit rather than skating, puck and stick handling, receiving, shooting and other hockey skills. There is no empirical support for the safety benefits of the “learn to take a hit” policy; whereas there is clear empirical evidence establishing that the introduction of body checking in Bantam results in 1000’s of head and spinal cord injuries.

The mandate of Hockey Canada is to “Lead, develop and promote positive hockey experiences”. In eliminating body checking from the Midget level, Hockey Edmonton noted:

the animosity in the rink is down;
the scrums at the end of play are down;
there is an increased focus on skating, shooting and passing;
improvement in pace of play has improved; and
the game is now safer for kids who aren’t playing at elite levels.

Hockey is a great game. Yet participation rates are not keeping up with other youth sports and our youth are increasingly pursuing their athletic dreams in other sports. According to a survey conducted by Angus Reid (commissioned by the Rick Hansen Institute), 80 percent of Canadians would support a uniform national policy that would eliminate body checking for youth under the age of 15. Interestingly, only 17 percent of hockey parents believe that delaying body checking will hinder their child’s development as a hockey player, whereas 65 percent of hockey parents believe that it will make no difference or be helpful. We need to take steps to keep hockey growing and increase participation rates. Eliminating body checking in Bantam is a logical safe method to do this.

Hockey Canada plays a key leadership role in establishing the rules and regulations that govern youth hockey in Canada. Given the influence that Hockey Canada has on whether various leagues will allow body checking, the role that Hockey Canada took with respect to eliminating body checking from Peewee hockey, and your mandate to promote positive experiences in hockey; Hockey Canada may owe a legal duty to Canadian youth and their families to ensure that Bantam hockey players are not exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm. Maintaining the status quo creates a risk of reduction in funding from governmental and private agencies that wish to take a leadership role on this issue. Allowing body checking at the Bantam level, given the clear size, strength and power discrepancies amongst the participants, raises the possibility, as we have seen in other sports, of a class action being brought against Hockey Canada by youths injured due to your policy.

We hope that you will consider the issues raised in this letter and begin the process to discuss and consider changing Hockey Canada’s position on allowing body checking at the Bantam level. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you to improve the game, protect the kids and increase participation.

Yours truly,

HARPER GREY LLP

Per:Michael G. Thomas
Personal Law Corporation

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MGT/gap