The Hockey Canada U9 program has been designed to give young players the best experience possible on the ice, which will lead to more skills, more ice time and more fun! After extensive research and studies, it is clear that half-ice hockey for U9 players helps develop the finer points of hockey, and will benefit them as players in the long term.
If you have any questions about how the move to half-ice hockey will affect your child, take a look through our Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: What does the change mean for: Blue Lines
A: One of the biggest changes that parents and kids will notice is the absence of blue lines and offside calls - this allows kids to play without stopping, and get the most fun out of their ice time every game. Without having to worry about stopping the play for an offside face-off, kids are able to maximize their playing time each time they get on the ice! A recent study showed that 33% of ice time is lost to line changes and lining up for face-offs. Offside can be taught quickly to Atom-aged players.
Q: What does the change mean for: Line changes
A: Hockey Canada recommends that every 60 seconds a buzzer sounds to indicate a line change - the players on the ice will leave the puck where it is and change on the fly. The timed buzzer will make sure every player gets an equal amount of time on the ice.
Q: What does the change mean for: Face-offs
A: There will be a face-off to start the game and to start the second half. In order to make sure kids are getting the most out of their time on the ice, there will be no face-offs throughout the game, which means kids will get 33% more playing time!
Q: What does the change mean for: Periods/time limits
A: Based on 60 minutes of ice time, kids will get three minutes for warm-up, and the game will be played as two 25-minute halves with a two-minute intermission. Regardless of the length of the ice time, minor hockey associations are encouraged to allow a three-minute warm-up and two-minute intermission, and to split the remaining time in half.
Q: What does the change mean for: Goaltender puck freezes
A: In the event the goaltender freezes the puck, the attacking team will back away and possession will move to the goaltender’s team without stopping play.
Q: What does the change mean for: Out of bounds
A: If the puck is put out of play (onto the bench, past the centre-ice dividers (if utilized) or over the glass), the official will place another on the ice where the puck was last in play, and the non-offending team takes possession.
Q: What does the change mean for: Scoring goals
A: When a goal is scored, possession is turned over to the opposing team and play will continue.
Q: What does the change mean for: Penalties
A: Penalties will still be called during half-ice games. However, instead of stopping the play, the non-offending team will take possession of the puck and the official will inform the coach what penalty was called on which player. Play will continue 4-on-4, but the offending player will sit out the following shift. Coaches are asked to explain the penalty to the offending player.
Q: What does the change mean for: Number of players
A: The ideal size for U9 program teams would be 18 players. During games, they will split into two squads of nine players each - eight skaters and one goaltender. However, the roster size will be determined by the number of players registered, so roster size may vary by location.
Q: What does the change mean for: Goaltending
A: Every child should get the chance to play as a goaltender during their U9 years. This system gives kids the chance to develop a wide range of skills, instead of focusing on a single position and missing out on the opportunity to practice in all areas!
Q: How is it real hockey?
A: At this age, under nine years old, child development specialists say the focus should be on fun and skill development. Giving kids the opportunity to play continuously and work on their skills will ensure a healthy and balanced approach to the game and increase the likelihood of a long-term involvement in hockey. All other sports - soccer, basketball, tennis, baseball - reduce the playing field for age-appropriate play.
Q: What are the benefits of half-ice games ?
A: Half-ice games are the best way for kids to maximize the opportunity to learn the core elements of hockey by maximizing playing time. This means more ice time, more puck touches, more passing, more goals and more fun!
Q: Why half-ice?
A: Research shows that with kids aged 8-10, smaller spaces mean more playing time for U9 kids. In a study conducted by Hockey Alberta, kids get up to full-speed after around 65 feet, which helps their athleticism and will develop their top skating skill as they grow!
Q: How will tournaments work?
A: Many minor hockey associations run U9 jamborees, where players experience the fun of a tournament while playing half-ice games. Hockey Canada policy is that all U9 games are half-ice including tournaments/jamborees. However, these decisions are made at the provincial level by each provincial body (Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Alberta, etc.).
Q: What if certain kids are above/below the average skill levels?
A: Minor hockey associations are encouraged to group skaters according to skill level, which will give every child the chance to develop their skills in the best possible environment. This will help the coaches in putting together practice plans and ultimately will ensure that all players are able to develop faster.
Q: What is the progression for my child?
A: U7 (6-and-under) = cross-ice
U9 (8-and-under) = half-ice
U11 (10-and-under) = full-ice
Some minor hockey associations may have U9 kids play full-ice games late in their last U9 season to prepare for U11.
Q: What if my/someone’s child is more advanced than the rest of their group?
A: Playing half-ice hockey is actually more beneficial for skaters who are above the average skill level of 8-and-under players. With a smaller ice surface, they cannot simply skate away from someone trying to get the puck; it challenges them to work on their skills in small spaces.
Q: Can older U9 players play full-ice before the move to U11?
A: It is up to the minor hockey association and/or member branch your child plays with; however, Hockey Canada policy permits a transition to full-ice play for second-year U9 players in the second half of the season (after Jan. 15).
Q: What is the difference between a jamboree and a tournament?
A: A jamboree is designed to bring kids together to have fun on the ice! Kids will be placed onto teams, where the emphasis is not on winning, but having fun. Tournaments are held where three or more teams play against each other in an interlocking schedule, which eventually leads to a winner.
Q: Are smaller nets needed for half-ice games?
A: There’s no requirement for smaller nets in half-ice games. With goaltenders still in regulation-size pads, the regular nets (4x6) work just fine. If the minor hockey association chooses, smaller nets (3x4) are acceptable.
Q: Does a crease need to be drawn for the net in the neutral zone?
A: There’s no need for a crease for the neutral zone net. Each net should be placed just inside the centre circle, which gives the goaltender a marking to help position themselves! If there is no circle, you may draw one on the ice.
Q: What are the dimensions of a half-ice hockey game?
A: Half-ice game dimensions are based on an average ice surface of 200x85. With dividers placed on the centre line, a half-ice surface should be no larger than 100 feet by 85 feet.
Important Clarification Regarding U9 Ice Use
As one of the longest running and most successful minor hockey programs in the City of Thunder Bay, we promise to make your child’s hockey experience the best it can be.
Over our many years, we have found that this foundation of skills greatly enhances a player’s enjoyment of the game. To enhance our program, Elks also implements coaching strategies and modifications to the game recommended by Hockey Canada that aid in the skill development of our mini hockey players.
Some of these enhancements include, but are not limited to the following:.
- Modified Ice Surface – Another modification that will be easily noticed is reducing the size of the playing surface. Games will typically be played using only 1/2 or 1/3 of the ice surface. Again, this is all about proportions for our small players. There are numerous benefits of small-area games for players, young and old alike.
- USA Hockey Tracking of 8U Players
- Full Ice Hockey from Child’s View
U9 half-ice games do not force two teams into half an ice surface. TWO teams are divided in half, playing TWO half-ice games at once. Two games use the entire surface of the ice, allowing for 20 active players rather than 12.
U9 Gameplay Questions
Frequently Asked Questions About U9 Hockey
When does the season start? When does it end?
Elks U9 Hockey will start in October and will run through to the end of March.
Do kids need to bring their own jersey?
Jerseys and socks will be handed out at the first ice time, and Elks should have a table set up just inside the main doors at Delaney Arena where they can be picked up. Jerseys will need to be returned at the end of the season.
How do I know the hockey equipment is sized properly?
Hockey Canada offers a good overview of sizing all equipment for both players and goalies in their video.
How tall should my child's hockey stick be?
Hockey Canada's recommendations are at approximately 8 minutes into this video.