Ice skating should be taught in elementary school

For the development of Quebec hockey players to improve sufficiently, the problem needs to be addressed at its root by ensuring better opportunities are offered to young people aged 17 and 18.

• Also read: Elementary education: “We’re going to put more burden on schools because we want more players in the NHL”

This is one of the recommendations of the Quebec Committee for the Development of Ice Hockey in Quebec, which presented its long-awaited report on Thursday after several months of deliberation with a mixed group of experts from several branches of the province of Belle.

The chairman of that committee, former National League goaltender Marc Denis, presented the conclusions of the report at a press conference. These revolve heavily around optimizing talent development, as 17-year-old players often operate in a gray area. Few youngsters that age make it to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ).

“The 17-year-old players from 2004 who are the best in the QMJHL are being served very well. They don’t play on the fourth row or in the stands. These are players for whom development is appropriate. […] These players, the Sprinters, are very well served. For example, those who are poorly served are the very last to be cut off from the big youth teams,” explained Denis at a press conference.

We therefore propose new solutions for the U18s, but also for the 15 and 16 year olds who deserve to develop in separate leagues and not together at the level of midget hope. On the other hand, we want to stay away from the American under-18 promotion program, which only applies to around forty privileged players.

In this sense, the regional technical advisors in all corners of Quebec would play an important role in facilitating learning. They would allow players to reach their full potential within Quebec structures, the committee believes.

Of the 35 university programs in men’s hockey, only three are from Quebec and only one is French-speaking. The Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes, reigning Canadian champions, represent the province beautifully but stand alone at the helm.

Accessing ice hockey from an early age, particularly through learning to skate in elementary school, would also allow it to reach a wider clientele. Marc Denis believes that sport is taken seriously too early and that enjoying the game leads to better bonding among young people.

The Quebec Ice Hockey Development Committee in Quebec has put forward its ideas for women’s ice hockey, where it hopes to achieve equality of opportunity. Para hockey would also benefit from a partial overhaul of the system.

“What’s important is that it’s Day 1 of a long-term investment in our sport and that it’s applicable on the pitch. That’s what we thought, said Denis. There is enough leeway in each of the recommendations […] and when they come to life, it will take the form the partners have chosen.”

“I repeat: we need partners, we need Hockey Quebec to make changes and lead. We need the QMJHL, we need the Montreal Canadiens as part of the solution,” he added.

This report was submitted to the government on April 22 with a follow-up application. Denis is confident he won’t be shelved anytime soon and that the former members of the committee will continue to work hard to get their ideas accepted.

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