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Learn to Play ... Love to Play!

How a Player gets that first taste of Hockey is crucial

The Initiation Program serves as the foundation upon which the entire minor hockey association is built.  Youngsters at every level of play benefit from getting the “right start” in the game. The Initiation Program is crucial in building the skills of house league and competitive players alike. Children learn through participating in practice drills and informal modified games.  The Initiation Program is closely aligned with Hockey Canada’s Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) Model.

What is the Initiation Program?

The Initiation Program is Hockey Canada’s premiere ‘Learn to Play’ program and is the foundation of skills development for hockey in the OMHA.

The Hockey Canada Initiation Program is designed for players 5 and 6 years old but is suitable for any entry level hockey player and clearly lays out how to get them started in hockey so that they will: have fun; learn skills, and develop confidence.

The program consists of four phases of instruction, designed for any entry-level hockey player, helping introduce the skills of skating, passing, puck control and shooting in a progressive, one-step-at-a-time manner.

4 oz. Lightweight Blue Puck

Like other sports, in addition to reducing the size of the playing surface, the OMHA also uses the 4 oz. Lightweight Blue Puck, giving players the opportunity develop confidence in their puck control and shooting skills.

Cornerstones & Focus of the Initiation Program

  • A progressive learn to play teaching curriculum
  • To ensure that the child’s first contact with hockey is a safe and positive experience.
  • Emphasis is on fun and fundamental skill development, while also allowing youngsters to experience fitness, fair play and cooperation and to ensure a positive experience for children
  • To learn the fundamental skills required to play the game of hockey - Introduced through stations/small spaces/small area games
  • To develop self-confidence, and experience a sense of personal achievement
  • To create and refine basic motor patterns
  • Age-Appropriate - Designed practice and game play that is appropriate to the age, size and skill level of the participant

Cross-Ice Hockey | Reduce the Space. Increase the Fun!

Scaling the playing environment to Cross-Ice & Half-Ice hockey allows each player to spend developing skills for future success and enjoyment in the game.

For more experienced players, instead of the comfort of open ice, they are forced to make quicker decisions because the game area is smaller - which makes them better. The players that are less experienced improve because they spend more time with the puck.

For all players, more ice-time and more repetitions mean increased development.

  • Cross-Ice/Half-Ice hockey at the Initiation age effectively right-sizes the playing surface for young players:
  • Cross-Ice/Half-Ice hockey allows young players the opportunity for more puck-touches which promotes greater opportunity for skill-development (puck-handling, shooting, skating, coordination) and decision-making
  • Players on cross-ice/half-ice have been shown to receive five times more passes and take six times more shots than when they are on a full-sized rink

Hockey Canada Mandate - Cross-Ice/Half-Ice Mandate

To accept the recommendation that the Initiation age group shall only use cross ice, or half ice for all game play effective the 2017-18 season. Full ice games shall not be permitted.

The OMHA has created the following resource document to support our member Centres with the implementation and delivery of the Cross-Ice & Half-Ice hockey this season including what 'Game Day' looks like and several options for rink configurations.

The following presentation (with & without videos) was presented at a workshop at our Association Development Workshops at the 2017 Annual General Meeting. 

Resource Videos

Initiation Program - An in depth look

From Child's View, Parents Find Full-Ice Hockey No Fun

Have a glimpse into what playing on a full-size rink feels like to a young player when adults are asked to play on a supersized rink.

NHL Analytics Tracking of 8 year-old Hockey Players

A cutting-edge NHL analytics team compared cross-ice hockey to full-ice, quantifying small-area advantages​

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