Initiation Program

Hockey Alberta has adopted program guidelines and resources to support and provide direction for our Local Minor Hockey Associations to implement and operate a skill development program for players six years of age and younger -- the Initiation Program.

Based on Hockey Canada’s Long Term Player Development (LTPD) model, players who are six years old and younger should be focusing on having fun, learning skills and developing physical literacy. The ultimate goal of this level of hockey is to make the first impression of hockey a positive one for all players and parents.

Aligning with the LTPD model, Hockey Alberta is developing a formal set of guidelines for Initiation-aged players based on the following principles:

  1. The technical curriculum should focus on physical literacy and having fun.
  2. The official playing surface for practices and games should be reduced to one-half, one-third or one-quarter the size of the regulation playing surface.
  3. The equipment should be amended to fit the size and skill level of the players.
  4. Registration and regulation should not be the same as for higher levels or older age divisions.
  5. Instructors should be trained in an appropriate manner to teach players of this age and level of development.

On-ice study: smaller ice surfaces and skating development

In August 2016, Hockey Alberta partnered with Powerscout Hockey and St. Albert Minor Hockey to conduct a study on the effectiveness of smaller ice surfaces in skill development. The study featured 40 Initiation-aged players (five- and six-year-olds) who participated in a series of tests to collect data on a number of game and practice scenarios.

Hockey Alberta has worked with Minor Hockey Association Development Directors over the past couple of years to implement the Initiation guidelines. As part of that process, Hockey Alberta has received feedback that asks whether the smaller surface limits skating development, rather than enhancing it.

With regard to skating development, specific data for skating speed and acceleration was collected from the following scenarios:

• 200-foot sprints
• cross-ice games
• half-ice games, and
• a full ice game.

Overall, an analysis of the data and observation of the on-ice sessions reinforce that using a smaller ice surface at the Initiation level helps in the overall positive development of skating skills and skating acceleration for our youngest players, thereby better preparing them for when they are old enough to move to higher levels of hockey.

To read more about the findings from this study, CLICK HERE.

For more information on the Initiation Program, please contact the appropriate Hockey Alberta Regional Centre Consultant.