EH has long recognised that some young players are capable of competing at senior level in the regional leagues – hence the Regulation that allows this from the 13th birthday.
So let us compare two classic situations,
1. where a young player is coached solely within a club, plays in senior hockey from a young age, develops & progresses through the club teams & is probably a first or second team player by the time he/she leaves school.
2. where a young player has only known school hockey & has progressed to the schools first or second team.
For me this suggests that for talented players there would be much learning missing from the wannabe schoolboy years.
As a coach for over 30 years I firmly believe that those juniors who have representative ambitions must be playing regular ‘adult’ hockey in a testing competitive environment from at least the age of 15.
One only has to look at the organisation of Dutch & German hockey to realise that.
Personally, I think 13 is far too early as boys are physically not ready to compete at a level aedequate to their skills; they usually end up in lower teams against opponents which are not as skillfull as them, so the learning effect might be limited