OPINION: Mandatory full face protection a smart move for hockey

‘I can relate more intimately than most; I lost my eye to a hockey stick in June of 1990’

BC Hockey announced Tuesday that as of the 2018-2019 season, all junior B hockey players will be mandated to wear full face protection.

The requirement will affect all players in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL), Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL), as well as those playing for the two B.C. teams in the North West Junior Hockey League (Fort St. John Huskies and the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks).

Bravo BC Hockey.

Read More: Peninsula Panthers first team in western Canada to adopt face protection

The decision follows that of the VIJHL Peninsula Panthers, which adopted its own full face shield policy at the beginning of this season.

“Everybody in this league … can think of a time when a visor or face cage could have prevented an injury,” said Panthers’ general manager Pete Zubersky, upon announcing his team’s decision.

I can relate to that comment more intimately than most.

I lost my eye to a hockey stick in June of 1990.

I was playing in the Edmonton Ball Hockey League at the time.

Face masks had not yet been introduced when I played minor hockey, so when I moved to the senior ranks, I did not bother upgrading my equipment.

Read More: Full face protection mandatory for Junior B hockey

I have no one but myself to blame for the accident. It happened on the follow-through of a slap shot. I got a little too close, trying to deflect the shot. I was slightly bent over, trying to poke-check the shot, and the blade of the shooter’s stick hit me in the face. It slashed open my cheek, deflected off the cheek bone, and sheared off the outer third of my right eyeball.

The young man who took the shot did not even realize his stick made contact with my face.

It was a tough way to learn a lesson.

I still recall the only two teammates of mine to wear facial protection that season. One was a doctor. The other was a pilot. They both said they couldn’t risk injury, as it would affect their careers. And that’s the bottom line.

The overwhelming majority of junior B players are never going to make hockey their careers. Other than the odd post-secondary scholarship, this is the final step for them. Yes, some of them will go on to play senior hockey; the majority of them will continue to play “beer league,” but the prospect of the game paying the bills is long-gone – at least from a playing perspective.

That said, all these young men will be contributing to society in some form or another, and it’s BC Hockey’s duty as an umbrella organization to do everything in its power to ensure safety.

The arguments against full face protection are antiquated and non-sensible.

Eventually, the protection will be mandated at every level of hockey.

It’s puzzling to think that the National Hockey League took until 2013 to adopt even a partial face protection policy.

The argument heard around the league at the time was that visors impede vision. This argument was echoed by players who all wore full face protection throughout their minor hockey careers, then visors throughout their junior careers. They excelled so much at those levels that they reached the pinnacle of the sport. It’s hard to rationalize that argument, based on their successes.

It’s even harder to rationalize how the players’ union does not demand its members wear all the protection available to them.

Imagine Teamsters telling its construction workers “we know steel-toed boots are designed specifically to make the job safer, but we understand how cumbersome they can be, so while we strongly suggest you wear them, we will leave that decision to you.”

Unfathomable.

Would the local Boilermakers Union ever declare eye protection voluntary?

Absolutely not.

But for some reason, when it comes to the sport of hockey, every move made to further protect participants comes with pushback.

In time, full face shields will become as much a part of the sport as gloves and shin guards.

It can’t happen soon enough, from my standpoint.

Terry Farrell is the editor at the Comox Valley Record, on Vancouver Island.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Mayor responds after ministry rejects proposed Parksville bylaw to regulate needle distribution

Mayne: ‘These needles are being distributed with no accountability’

Halloween candies ready for trick-or-treaters. (Philip Wolf photo)
PQBeat: Ghouls, goblins, candy, costumes, COVID-19 restrictions and all things Halloween

Podcast: 2020 version of the spooky night promises to be much different

Marcus Walker looks foward to playing his first game with the VIU Mariners men’s soccer team. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach soccer standout will have to wait to make PacWest debut

Walker eager to play first game with VIU Mariners

Adam Walker. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach voters wait to see if they must return to the polls

Byelection could be required if councillor wins seat as MLA

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

The Comox Valley Airport had a recent flight arrive with a confirmed case of COVID-19. File photo
COVID-19 exposure on flight into Comox

WestJet flight 3315 from Calgary to Comox was identified with a case

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

Most Read