Initiation Program Welcome (Oakridge Aeros Minor Hockey)


PrintInitiation Program Welcome

Welcome to the Oakridge U7 Initiation Hockey Program (IP)!

The Oakridge Initiation Program generally consists of 5 and 6 year olds, along with some 4 year olds who are ready (able to skate) to play introductory hockey. The program is designed to introduce players to the great game of hockey in a fun way with no standings or scores kept.

We use a program based upon the Hockey Canada U7 “Initiation Program” model, a proven methodology that has been used to introduce hundreds of thousands of young players to the great game of hockey. This program allows every level of player to be truly part of the game.

This new program is designed around 3 main objectives:

  • Introduce players to the fundamentals of the game in a fun and supportive environment.
  • Allow the players to build their confidence (“I can get the puck too!”).
  • Progress the players through drills and games that match their skill level to prepare them for their next level of hockey.

Assessments take place in late September to gauge each player’s ability and determine which division of Initiation Hockey is best suited for each child. Your child is expected to attend all assigned assessment times. These will double as practice ice for the kids and jump start their progress. All players will then be assigned to teams with the intention that skill is evenly distributed across these teams.  

Children in Initiation hockey develop at a remarkable rate. A year can make a pronounced difference. For this reason, most hockey associations divide players into 2 mini divisions. Children placed in the more advanced division, "Red" will only play against other Red teams and players in "White"  our beginner division, will play against other White beginners.  The primary focus of both divisions will be skill development. 

SCHEDULE (Saturday and Sundays):
Initiation teams will have one practice during the week.  These practices will be scheduled at Oakridge or Medway Arena on Saturday mornings/early afternoon. The team will practice at the same time, same day for the entire season.
The game ice will be scheduled at Oakridge or Medway Arena on Sunday mornings/early afternoon.

We also run an optional development program for our players every second Tuesday night at Oakridge arena. This program is optional but an extra skate for a very minor cost and a great supplement to their hockey experience. Players must already be assigned to an Oakridge U7 (IP) team. This program is popular and is capped at max 40 skaters and usually fills up quickly - stay tuned for details.. 


Every child will receive their team jersey and hockey socks once the teams are firmed up in October. In the meantime, please ensure your child has a jersey and a pair of socks for the assessments/practices prior to teams being formed. 

Your player will need to wear full hockey equipment at all times when on the ice. This includes a CSA approved certified hockey helmet, BNQ certified neck guard, shoulder pads, elbow pads, jock or jill, hockey shorts, shin pads, gloves, stick and skates.

The program relies heavily on the help of on-ice parent volunteers. Please consider volunteering to help coach your child’s team. It is our hope that each team have a Head Coach with at least 3 Assistants. If this is something you might be interested in, don’t hesitate to contact us and we can give you more information. 

In past seasons; Oakridge runs a development program for our players on a weeknight. This program is optional but an extra practice for a minor cost and a great supplement to their hockey experience. 

This program also includes separate instruction for younger aspiring hockey players. These “Little Aeros” are not quite ready for hockey and receive more learn-to-skate instruction while in hockey equipment.

More details will be made available about our optional IP Development skates.


For the most recent information from Hockey Canada/Ontario Hockey Federation/Alliance, please see these Websites:


* Alliance Hockey Player Pathways


The biggest structural change that happened is that full ice play is now in a cross-ice or half-ice play set up. Research has proven that scaling the game to a smaller playing space at younger ages will allow more players to touch the puck, and it will increase interaction and engagement of play.  In IP we utilize 4oz 'blue' pucks, smaller nets and separator boards.

There are no refs in initiation for “game-play” and no off-sides. All children receive equal ice time, we added more teams as with half-ice play the rosters are slightly smaller. 

In depth look at IP from Hockey Canada's Corey McNabb :

HOCKEY CANADA POLICY  for U9 Players (9 Year old  and under):

You may recall that in 2002-2003 Hockey Hockey Canada made an age category change throughout all levels of minor hockey in Canada, moving each age group down one year. For example, for Novice in the years of 2002 and prior the ages were 8 and 9 years old, after the change was made Novice was 7 & 8 years old.  Today's Minor Novice would have been in Tyke/IP 'when we were kids'. 

Other leading hockey countries like Sweden and USA have been using this curriculum designed by Hockey Canada over 25 years ago (but never mandated in Canada until now) for years  and their development system has experienced hugely successful results into their elite levels. Every other sport has smaller playing surfaces and equipment (smaller/lower nets, smaller/lighter balls) at younger ages (soccer, baseball, basketball, etc)

Hockey Canada has established national guidelines to ensure optimal development of hockey players at this crucial introductory stage: 

Game play at the Novice age-group and below will be Cross/Half-ice.

Effective since 2019-20; the Programming in the Ontario Hockey Federation, which we are a member, has been implemented as follows: 
1. Game play for the U7 Initiation age-group (5 & 6 year-olds) will be Cross-Ice 
2. Game play for the U8 Minor Novice age-group (Grade 2 / 7 year-olds) will be Half-Ice.
3. Game play for the U9 Major Novice age-group (8 year-olds) will be Half-Ice during the first half of the season and transition to Full-Ice during the second half of the season.


The FUNdamental stage of Hockey Canada’s Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) Model 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 and it is crucial in building the skills of house league and competitive players alike. Children learn through participating in practice drills and informal modified games which forms the basis of Long-Term Player Development (LTPD).

If the beginner has fun, develops some basic skills and builds confidence, there is a good chance that player will go on to enjoy hockey for many years.

Developing fundamental movement skills (skating, jumping, twisting, turning) manipulations skills (shooting, puck control) and overall motor skills (agility, balance, coordination) in a fun and safe sport environment that promotes self-confidence.

• Continue to grow their impression of hockey as a positive one for players and parents
• Play/games exist primarily in a modified form – formalized games introduced throughout the season
• Some stream of the players – goal is to have players working with players of like skill to develop confidence and self esteem

Designing practice and game play that is appropriate to the age, size and skill level of the

• Age-appropriate skills programming
• Introduced through Skills Stations/Small Spaces

• Age-appropriate modified games
• Introduced through Small Area Games and Cross-Ice / Half-Ice games

At times, there can be concerns from parents about how small area games may delay their child’s hockey development. But parents need to think long term and not worry too much about their child being the best player on the ice at the age of 5, 6 or 7 years old. It is also important to remind parents that putting young players in to a competitive environment too early, will compromise their development. Children need to be placed in to competitive situations that suit their age appropriate abilities. And parents need to be realistic about what children should be able to do all age levels. This is why Hockey Canada’s Long Term Player Development strategy is so important.

It is important to fully understand and appreciate the benefits of cross ice and Half-Ice hockey.

The configuration of dividing the playing surface into Cross-Ice or Half-Ice are decisions that have been made at the national level with policies in place that required small area configurations for game play at the Initiation, Tyke and Novice levels.

• Increased emphasis on skating skills including agility, balance, coordination and quickness
• Number of puck battles increases significantly
• Puck control and puck protection skills are enhanced resulting in more confidence with the puck
• Fundamentals of skating, puck control, passing, and shooting are reinforced
• Less time and space increases the frequency and speed of making hockey decisions
• Offers a more challenging environment to improve ice awareness and elevate hockey sense
• Increased intensity of competition results through the progressive skill improvement of players
• Better environment for teaching ice awareness and boosts hockey sense.
• Over time, the intensity level of competition increases with the progressive skill improvement of players.

• Over-competing & under training
• Adult programs imposed on children
• Preparation geared to short-term outcomes
• Competition system interferes with athlete development
• Early specialization is demanded


• 5X more passes received
• 5X more puck battles
• 2X more puck touches
• 2X more pass attempts
• 2X more shot attempts/player
• 2X more change of direction pivots
• 1.75 shots/minute vs 0.45 shots/minute playing full ice
• 2.75X more shots on goal per minute
• 10%  Skating Acceleration Increase
• Advanced skaters reached top speed in 60 feet or less
• The cross ice playing surface is 85 feet in length, meaning players can and do reach top speed in cross ice hockey
• Effective skating, especially at higher levels, is a combination of turns, pivots, starts and transitions.
• Cross Ice hockey trains players to skate the game, rather than simply skating fast in straight lines. It provides more acceleration, more agility, and more engagement. It also doubles players’ puck handling opportunities

‘The flat-out use of maximum skating in the game of hockey, it simply doesn’t happen very often. What does happen is that you have to be adjusting, changing, going forward, backward, lateral, always turning and moving toward the puck; that’s agility skating. Practices in smaller areas generate more stops, starts, turns and, most importantly, more puck touches.’
George Kingston - Former Canadian Men’s National Team, NHL, International Coach


These great videos really help to explain the research, evidence and philosophy behind the half-ice hockey at U7 and U9.
NHL Analytics Tracking of 8U Hockey Players:

From a child's view:

OMHA Podcast and Article -

The next Step in the Pathway is U9


“When you look at Europe they're not playing full ice, five-on-five games with score clocks and referees until their kids are nine or 10. The fact that we do it in places in Canada here when kids are six years old — and they're probably keeping track of scoring leaders and stuff like that — it's a natural phenomenon to worry about winning versus development. That's probably one of the biggest differences and the earlier you put in a competition structure in place and the earlier you place a tiering of players, it's inevitable that the outcome becomes more important than the process.”

Corey McNabb
Hockey Canada's Manager of Player Development

“With cross-ice hockey and small-area games, there's way more action, way more fun, and it creates more offense. I know it was a lot more fun for me growing up with small-ice hockey. Skating 200 feet down the ice doesn't make a lot of sense for young kids, and its not a very efficient way to use the ice, either. The game's all about skill, creativity and competition. Playing in smaller spaces helps develop all of that, plus it's fun, which is one of the things I like most about...”

Toronto Maple Leafs forward, 2022 Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award Winner, 2017 Calder Trophy recipient, 2020-21 Winner of the Rocket Richard Award (Top NHL Goal-scorer). Two-time Team USA gold medalist;  Raised on tiny-ice, 3v3, skills-focused hockey.

“Station-based practices, small area games, lightweight blue pucks and age-appropriate ice size ensure players are engaged and have the right start in their hockey experience. Scaling the game to match the age group allows young players the opportunity for more puck-touches which promotes greater opportunity for skill-development in puck-handling, shooting, skating, coordination and decision-making.”

Ian Taylor 
OMHA Executive Director

Please contact our
Initiation Program Convenor, should you have any questions.