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Dear Parents: Give Half-Ice Hockey a Chance

By Kathleen Crowley, 11/02/23, 9:30AM EDT


A Hockey Mom writes a letter to her fellow hockey parents

Photo Credit: Heather Pollock Photography

When it was first announced that players U9 and younger would be playing half-ice hockey there was a lot of discussion amongst parents with kids in those age groups about the change. The presiding belief was that full-ice hockey was key to developing a young player. Those of us who had an older child in minor hockey that didn’t play half-ice didn’t know what to expect.

I’m guilty of it.

“Half-Ice? What do you mean my U9 hockey player will have to play half ice? His older brother didn’t. This is terrible! No winners? No keeping score? What’s the point?”

I had these thoughts, and I certainly heard them echoed around local arenas and among other parents.

Change is difficult. Half-ice was here, and there was nothing we could do about it. So, I buckled myself in to begin what I thought would be a boring, pointless, season.

As the practices and early season games began, I thought – hey, this is kind of like Timbits hockey all over again - but this time the kids have much more skill.

I started to carefully watch the half-ice games. It got off to a bit of a rough start as the players and coaches figured out all the new rules, but then something started to happen. These kids began to move so well on their skates. Changing direction, moving quickly, turning, pivoting, and keeping their balance all while moving the puck, and making passes. And the shots – there were so many shots!

Do you know what my son loves most about hockey games? Being involved in the game: touching the puck, passing, and yes, taking shots.

So, was I annoyed at not keeping score? Sure, at first. But when I started to really watch my child and I saw skill development that I didn’t see in his older brother, and I saw joy after every game, even if they were ‘out-performed’ (since they didn’t lose :)) that annoyance began to fade.

I had read about all the research that demonstrated that small surface hockey is better in the long term, but now I was starting to believe it. These half-ice games were allowing them to hone their skills. They all began to move faster, show more puck control, and pass. They were moving quickly, making decisions, looking up to find their teammates for a pass, and getting more scoring opportunities.

I know that full-ice hockey is around the corner for my 8-year-old. I can’t wait to see how all of these skills are transferred to full ice hockey, but I don’t regret spending the time here in half ice hockey.

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These kids are engaged. They love the game. Every player feels valuable on the ice. They are learning to move in a small space, handle the puck like a pro, and they have learned to pass to their teammates to make plays.

And here’s the thing that sticks with me the most. After every game, even when these kids are dramatically out played, they come into the dressing room with big smiles on their faces. They are having so much fun. Personally, I believe that my child is developing a true love for the game that will be with him for life. It’s that love of the game that will keep him playing for years to come, when he will have lots of time to play full ice hockey.

It was definitely hard to adjust to watching my younger son play half ice hockey when his older brother didn’t have to. But now that we are into the season, and I am seeing not only the benefits to his skill and level of play, but the results in the change room and the joy on his face, I can only say to other parents – give it a chance, and watch for the joy in your child’s face.

So, parents, lets lead by example and tell our kids that half ice hockey isn’t just something we have to do because it’s in the rules. Let’s tell them what they already know: that it’s the best way to learn the game while having the most fun possible. What we say to our kids matters. They are having fun, and so should we.


Kathleen Crowley is an experienced Hockey Mom of two boys and a beginner hockey player on the side.

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