Nicole de Moulpied looks at her son, Brenner, when he steps off the ice after a practice or a game and can’t help but smile.
“He is so excited, so happy, so amped up. He just loves hockey,” says the mother of three from Dunstable, Mass. “That’s why I feel like I have to do everything I can to keep him playing. It motivates me to make this happen.”
The “this” that de Moulpied is talking about is finding a no-check league for her 12-year-old son to join before he reaches the threshold of Bantam hockey, the age when league body checking begins.
Brenner has already suffered two concussions outside of the sport. The first injury, which his parents didn’t know was a concussion right away, left him with headaches, nausea and sensitivity to light. The symptoms surrounding the second one were less severe because de Moulpied and her husband, Paul, knew what to look for and the steps to take to aid in his recovery.
De Moulpied does not want to deny her son the opportunity to play the game he loves, but she can’t bear the thought of seeing him suffer more head trauma. So she has been on a mission to provide players with an alternative.
“There are kids who don’t like checking,” says de Moulpied, who believes that a no-checking option would keep more kids in the game. “When checking starts, it’s a little less fun for them. So there are quite a few kids excluded from hockey between 13 and 17.”
USA Hockey rules do allow any house league to prohibit checking at any age. Such leagues are few and far between, often leaving parents with some tough choices.
Through word of mouth, de Moulpied’s initiative is gaining traction as a number of players and parents from the surrounding area have expressed interest in creating a no-checking league. A local league has even offered to launch a program next season.
“A lot of these kids love the sport so much, and the sport does so many good things for kids, whether they’re playing in a checking or no-check league,” she says.
“They get so many good life lessons out of this that it’s a shame that at such a critical age, 13-year-old boys need all that good stuff. I feel like it would be the right thing to give them a place to play and feel proud to be a part of a program.”