This post is written by someone that has never played organized ice hockey. I barely watch the sport anymore. So if that kind of person talking about changing hockey pisses you off, I suggest you leave now.
Hockey Canada has banned the practice of bodychecking in peewee hockey. If the numbers in this Ottawa Citizen article are to be believed (only because they are so striking) every year 12% of peewee hockey players are injured and 40% of those injuries involve concussions. As a parent with two boys, those are the kind of stats to make me say "Hell no!" when asked if I'm going to put them into hockey.
Don Cherry is worried that banning bodychecking will lead to more injuries in older players because they won't know how to take a hit. I kind of understand what he is getting at, but I'm going to propose that misses the point entirely.
What if hockey (and the NHL) banned the bodycheck entirely? (OK Settle down. Hear me out. And yeah, if they can't ban fighting, they certainly won't ban bodychecks. But bear with me here.)
To support my argument, I'm going to resurrect an old Don Cherry argument, that it is the equipment itself that is contributing to the seriousness of the injuries hockey players are experiencing. How violent a hit would a player deliver if they were just as likely to be injured as the person they hit?
I'm not against contact hockey. But why is it now so dangerous to receive a pass up the middle at the blue line? Invariably the blame is placed on the player receiving the pass "his head was down, you gotta keep your head up." So make one little mistake and a player suffers a career ending concussion? Come on, that's not a reasonable position.
I'm going to state that we need to take hockey back to pushing and shoving. The side to side shoulder or waist bumps trying to wrest control of the puck. Any perpendicular, head on or from behind hits have to be banned, you must be skating parallel to the player before you can make any contact.
This is how people play pick-up hockey when no one is wearing equipment. Instinctively most people realize anything else is really going to hurt. That kind of hockey is still a lot of fun to play (I love a good game of pickup hockey) and I think it would be a great game to watch if professionals played that way. If 12 adults can get together and play intense competitive ball hockey on an outdoor court without any serious injuries, I submit that it can be done on the ice at the professional level as well, and take nothing away from the game. I know I would watch it more, if only they could get rid of the fighting....