To hit or not to hit, that is the hockey question

Judging by the flurry of media coverage Monday and Tuesday, a study by York epidemiologist Dr. Alison Macpherson and orthopedic surgeon Andrew Howard from the Hospital for Sick Children has reignited the debate over when to allow bodychecking in minor hockey. The study found that at ages 10 to 13, children were almost twice as likely to have a checking-related injury in Ontario, where checking was allowed, than in Quebec, where it was not allowed. The study also found that it isn’t true that children who learn to body check earlier will have fewer injuries in later years.

The interest wasn’t unexpected. “I’m sure there’s going to be lots of controversy – there always is,” Macpherson told the Woodstock Sentinel-Review. “But from a hospital perspective, this is what the numbers tell us.”

Since the study was released Monday in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, sports and editorial writers have weighed in on both sides and Macpherson was inundated with requests for radio, television and newspaper interviews.

Here is a sampling from Feb. 7:

  • A Calgary Herald editorial said now that researchers from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and York University have linked bodychecking to greater rates of injury, the age at which the practice is permitted in minor hockey should be raised to 14. Age 14 is when kids are starting to develop adolescent strength and bulk. Before that age, some kids are still built like young children while others are more like young adults. The study of 4,736 kids found that atoms and peewees are almost twice as susceptible to concussions, and fractures of arm and leg bones. That’s a lot of needless damage being inflicted on young children. Kids can have fun playing hockey without the risk of injury. And shouldn’t fun be the primary focus at that age?
  • Toronto Star columnist Jim Coyle wrote: These days, I agree completely with the authors of the study released Monday who say body checking should not be allowed for boys under 14 because the risk of injury is too great.. These days, I think people such as Don Cherry – who’s grown rich peddling endless volumes of rock ’em, sock ’em videos and preaching a code of violence and vengeance as rabidly as any gang leader – are a national menace.
  • The Record of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo said a newly published study on bodychecking in minor hockey will serve as a piece of the puzzle for the Ontario Hockey Federation. “The ultimate goal is to find the appropriate age and appropriate method of introducing bodychecking,” said Phil McKee, federation executive director. In May, the hockey federation will take results of all available studies to Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting, which could establish a new national standard for when and how, to introduce bodychecking. The London Free Press also sought McKee’s reaction.
  • The StarPhoenix of Saskatoon reported that a University of Regina professor who is overseeing a project study for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association questioned the scope of the study. “We’re looking at the question [whether to bodycheck at an earlier age] a little bit differently,” Harold Riemer, a professor in sport and recreation administration. “I haven’t read their whole study but, from what I can see [based on a CanWest News Service story which ran in The StarPhoenix], the authors of that study were looking at it from a very limited perspective. They’re only looking at injury rates,” said Riemer. “We’re also collecting information from the people involved in the study on where they are maturation-wise, physically,” he said. “The other thing they don’t take in account is skill level. That will have an impact, too, whether or not you’re able to avoid collisions, be evasive, handle them properly.”

At least 50 regional and national radio and TV news and sports casts across Canada reported the results of the study Monday. The study became the question of the day for several talk shows Feb. 6. And some interviewed Macpherson directly, including:

  • “The National”, “CBC News” and “Canada Now” on CBC TV, also aired on affiliates
  • “CBC News” on CBC Newsworld
  • “CTV National News” and “Canada AM” on CTV TV, also aired on affiliates across Canada 
  • CBC Radio’s “As it Happens”, “Ontario Morning”, “Metro Morning” in Toronto, “Afternoon Edition” in Saskatchewan
  • “R. Cloutier Presents” on CJOB-AM in Winnipeg
  • “Windsor Now” on CKLW-AM
  • “Global News”
  • “CityNews at Noon” on City-tv, also aired on affiliates across Canada
  • “A Channel News” on CKVR-TV in Barrie
  • TSN’s “Sports Centre”


Electing senators-in-waiting a silly idea, says prof

Canada doesn’t have an elected senate but it soon will if Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman gets his way, reported the Vaughan Citizen Feb. 4. He announced Thursday he will re-introduce legislation that would see Ontario become the second province to elect senators-in-waiting by public vote. But political scientists warn the proposal is a simplistic solution that could backfire. “It would absolutely prevent any future reform. I think it’s a very bad idea,” said Ian Greene, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. “I think it’s a very silly and dangerous idea. I think it’s the worst part of the Conservative platform, so thoughtless.”

Research investment would benefit Markham

Markham would stand to benefit if politicians heed a call for more investment in research and development, reported the York Guardian Feb. 1. The Toronto Region Research Alliance, a group representing political, academic and business leaders, released a report last week outlining the need for three major research and development centres in southern Ontario. Included is the National Institute for Convergent Technologies, which is led by York University and the Town of Markham. Its focus on biomedical research could lead to medical discoveries for the average Canadian. Markham Mayor Don Cousens said the municipality is prepared to offer land if it would help expedite the building of such a facility.

Flaherty seen as a friend of Main Street

While Bay Street celebrates the ascension of a dedicated tax cutter who carries undeniable conservative credentials, those who know Jim Flaherty say his political soul is not in the corporate boardroom but on Main Street, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 7 in a feature on Canada’s new finance minister, a 1973 LLB graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Marsden named a member of the Order of Canada

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden was named a member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her public service in education and administration, reported the Toronto Star and The Gazette in Montreal Feb. 7.

Olympians share message with high school students

Tracey Ferguson, a gold medal Paralympian wheelchair basketball player, and Molly Killingbeck, a three-time Olympian track star, shared their inspirational stories with children at H. J. Alexander Community School in Weston, reported the York Guardian Feb. 2. “I found my way through sport,” said Killingbeck, who came to Canada as a young girl from Jamaica and graduated from York in 1986 with a BA in sociology. “Then I learned to dream and I set goals. People couldn’t understand why I ran in circles everyday. But I knew where it was going to take me.” Her dedication to the sport paid off, winning numerous medals in international competition including a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. “Every time I go out and speak, I feel I have an obligation to share my dream,” said the York University hall of famer. “You have to imagine yourself as a winner … and be the best that you can be.”

Monica Chapman faces the biggest break of her career

Singer, pianist and performer Monica Chapman is fairly new to Guelph, but her music and full-house performances are not, reported the Guelph Mercury Feb. 4. Now 48-year-old Chapman is facing the biggest break of her career with a March 20 gig at Gate 403, a jazz club in Toronto. “I’m in shock they found me worthy to give me a try. I’m just here to express myself,” said Chapman, who earned a BA from York in 1982 but put her career on hold while raising a family. Now that her children are teenagers, she’s decided to plunge back into the industry. “I waited a long time, and now it’s my time and I have to grab it.”

On air

  • York political scientist Daniel Drache discussed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new cabinet, on CFTR’s “680 News” in Toronto Feb. 6.
  • Celia Haig-Brown, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, was interviewed during a gathering on Walpole Island of First Nations teachers about finding better ways to reach students, on CBC TV’s “Canada Now” in Windsor Feb. 3.
  • Political economist Jonathan Nitzan, a professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, was interviewed about whether the proposed South American pipeline is practical, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Feb. 3.
  • Saeed Rahnema, a York political science professor, discussed the possibility of nuclear power in Iran, on TVO’s “Diplomatic Immunity” Feb. 3.