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8U Q-and-A: Cross-Ice Hockey

04/25/2019, 10:15am MDT
By Bob Mancini

Q: My child is playing in a cross-ice hockey league. The other day, his grandfather asked me why do they play cross-ice? I know it is good for kids at this age but I struggled giving him a good answer. Can you help?

A: What a great and timely question. Cross-ice hockey is an integral part of high-performance development at the 8U age level. With a new group of boys and girls being introduced to youth hockey every year, it is important that we constantly remind administrators, coaches and parents of the importance of playing cross-ice hockey at the 8U age level. Of course while the simplicity of having children play youth sports on appropriately sized playing surfaces seems sensible, it is important that we can also cite the reasons why it makes so much sense to the development of all our players at 8U:

  • Increases the use of the core skating skills…agility, balance, coordination and quickness
  • Increases the amount of incidental body contact, forcing  kids to play with their head up while preparing them for proper use of their body at older age groups
  • Number of puck battles is significantly increased
  • Being able to make plays and protect the puck in traffic is a huge difference maker as kids advance to play at higher levels.
  • Learned fundamental and game skills are reinforced at a greater rate through game play.
  • There is less time and space, therefore the frequency of making hockey decisions are increased, providing a better environment for teaching ice awareness and hockey sense.
  • Higher intensity level of competition.
  • Scoring…scoring…scoring…the playing area is almost entirely the equivalent of the scoring zone therefore encouraging and increasing the opportunity for players to shoot and score.
  • Gives more players a chance to try goaltending as a position and gives goaltenders more game like action.
  • Naturally teaches players at a young age to control the middle of the rink both offensively and defensively.
  • Builds the confidence and ability of ALL players.
  • Creates a stronger challenge for our more skilled players by having them face more opposition in a smaller space and therefore requiring a greater degree of skill improvement.
  • Increases the FUN and ENGAGEMENT of kids in a competitive learning environment.

About the Author

The author, Bob Mancini, is a longtime hockey coach and player-development expert. His experience includes two seasons in the NHL as an Edmonton Oilers development coach and more than a decade as a head coach in the NCAA Division I and OHL ranks.

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