From forwards to goalies, why 8U has gone blue
In 2009, USA Hockey made a change to youth ice hockey that turned a few heads. In 8U leagues, black pucks suddenly turned blue. No, not because of the cold (but that would have been cool). It had everything to do with a young skater’s development and ability to hit and control a heavier puck. Which meant, not only did their pucks turn a different color, they also got lighter.
European countries like Sweden and Finland play with the lighter 4-ounce blue puck versus the standard 6-ounce black one. This is especially true for their new players between the ages of 5 and 8 years old. Finland even takes it a step further using the blue pucks up until age 11, demonstrating great success in its youth programs.
Lighter pucks “allow these younger players to develop proper technique in passing, shooting and stickhandling. The blue puck improves coordination, quickness and speed. The idea of using a heavier puck at 8U to strengthen players should not be a focus of development. Children do not reach their strength window of trainability until after puberty. At younger ages, teaching proper technique in passing, stickhandling and shooting through the use of age-appropriate equipment is critical to skill development,” states Michele Amidon, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM).
Nurturing development and building confidence
Trainers and coaches believe that giving a young player a black puck too soon slows development and leads to bad technical habits. Using age-appropriate equipment optimizes a young player’s muscle memory and helps them achieve better long-term results.
Fellow regional ADM manager, Joe Bonnett, agrees saying, “Hockey traditionally hasn’t been known to do age-appropriate, kid-specific modifications, but consider other sports. Using a smaller soccer ball has always been considered normal. Using a smaller basketball hoop is normal, a smaller basketball, a lighter baseball bat and T-ball. All of that is kind of ingrained in our society, and USA Hockey just introduced hockey’s version of that.”
Better in the net defensive training
The 4-ounce blue puck also helps to develop budding goalies. “If those in 8U aren’t strong enough to lift a standard 6-ounce puck when shooting, it will impede on the goalie’s ability to improve as well. Instead of practicing how to catch pucks with their glove or stop shots from going over their shoulders, goalies will only get to focus on slow shots that stay low across the ice. The blue puck allows shooters to keep their heads up, practice accuracy for each corner of the net and help goalies learn to defend those areas—all while simulating the type of play athletes can expect beyond 8U,” Bonnett adds.
Play by the rules
USA Hockey Rule 306, paragraph (b) states: For the 8-or-under (Youth) and for 8-or-under (Girls) and below age classifications, it is required that the puck weigh between four ounces and four and a half ounces and be blue in color.
It’s recommended that the lightweight blue puck be used in all 10 & under (Youth and Girls) age classifications. Today, if a black puck is used in an 8U practice or game in violation of the above USA Hockey rule 306, and an injury takes place, the coaches, officials, organization, officers of that organization, and anyone else involved with the team could possibly be sued personally for all medical expenses plus pain and suffering incurred by the player.
So when you’re at your next Mini Mite or Mite game or practice, be sure they’re hitting blue.
(Source: ADMKids.com, October 13, 2016)