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Initiation Program

Effective starting in the 2017-2018 season, Hockey Canada has a new policy requiring that all Initiation-aged hockey players (ages 5-6 years) receive age-appropriate programming that is suitable to the age, size and skill level of the participants.

Hockey Alberta has recommended and promoted age-appropriate programming for several years. Many Minor Hockey Associations have embraced these principles, and are operating their Initiation programs on smaller-sized ice surfaces and using modified game rules in their regular seasonal programming.

2017-18 Initiation Program Standards >

To those MHAs who are already utilizing age-appropriate programming at the Initiation level, thank you and congratulations. You are working to ensure that the first hockey experience for your youngest players is positive, and that the emphasis for these participants in on skill development.

For those MHAs who are not yet utilizing age-appropriate programming at the Initiation level, Hockey Alberta is enforcing the new policy from Hockey Canada, and requires that MHAs in Alberta adhere to the following standards:

  • Practice Ice Surface: All ice sessions must be on a maximum 100’ x 85’ ice surface or can be a larger surface if station work is utilized
  • Competition Ice Surface: All ice sessions must be cross-ice, half-ice or third-ice with up to a maximum ice surface size of 100’ x 85’

In addition to these required standards, the following are recommended to be incorporated into the Initiation program:

  • Surface Dividers: Divide the ice with small boards or other rink dividers
  • Puck: Blue 4-ounce puck used for all ice sessions
  • Nets: 3’ x 4.5’ nets used for all ice sessions
  • Modified Game Rules: No offside or icing will be called
  • Faceoffs: Can be used to start play, but not to be used after a goal is scored
  • Seasonal Plan Guidelines:
    • 2:1 practice to game ratio;
    • 2 ice sessions per week (could be more if attending a jamboree or festival);
    • 2-3 jamborees/festivals per season (maximum);
    • As Initiation is an introduction to hockey, times for ice sessions should be considered that enable families to participate (ie - weekday sessions no earlier than 5:00 pm, and weekend sessions no earlier than 9:00 am).

Hockey Alberta will not sanction events that do not comply with the Initiation Program standards and will be monitoring programming offered by MHAs for compliance.

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.