Coaches of local KIJHL teams have many questions and concerns after it was announced players must wear helmet cages starting next season.
BC Hockey made the announcement Tuesday it will be mandatory for all players across the three Junior B leagues in the province (KIJHL, VIJHL, PIJHL) as of the 2018/2019 campaign.
“Our game is faster than it has ever been, and as a result we face increased challenges and responsibilities relative to safety. We are confident that through this initiative facial and dental injuries will be greatly reduced.” says BC Hockey Chief Executive Officer Barry Petrachenko in a release.
Fernie Ghostriders Head Coach Craig Mohr is wondering why Junior A was not included if the issue is the speed of the game.
“Are they scared of Junior A just saying ‘the heck with you’ and pulling out and being an outlaw league? I have no idea.” says Mohr. “I think a lot of people are looking at it [and thinking] normally players that play in the BCHL are looking to go down to the States to play American College hockey with the full [face] shields.”
Kimberley Dynamiters Head Coach Derek Stuart says he is simply confused.
“They seem to think that their only concern is for the safety of Junior B players only.” says Stuart. “I think if safety truly was the reason then I don’t understand why it’s limited just to our level of junior hockey.”
“It’s clearly to save money on insurance and I think partly also to eliminate fighting.” explains Stuart.
Another major concern is it seems teams were not engaged at all before the decision.
“To just sneak it out at 8 AM on a Tuesday morning…really?” says Mohr. “I think what’s really [upsetting] just talking with fellow coaches is there was zero consultation with member clubs and I think that’s going to be a real sore point for a lot of people.”
The players were blindsided too.
“[They’re] livid about it” chuckled Mohr. “They like playing with the visors and I think they’ve earned that right to be able to play with the visors.”
Stuart believes a four official system would make the game more safe rather than caging players.
“If there is a true concern for safety that would be, in my opinion, the first area to fix.” says Stuart. “A lot of times the referees do their best and I applaud their effort but quite often it seems that they’re overwhelmed especially if some things get out of hand or if there are a lot of penalties.”
Both Mohr and Stuart agree dental issues will be decreased with the new facemask rules but also believe other dangerous aspects of the game have potential to get worse.
“I think, in my opinion, head shots will increase, checking from behind will increase, high sticking to the upper torso will increase and I also think you’ll start to see some players leading with their heads when they hit like you see in midget.” says Stuart.
“Do hits to the head go up? Do high sticks go up?” asks Mohr. “You put full cages on and guys feel more invincible.”
BC Hockey says from 2010 to 2015 over 370 dental injuries to players wearing half visors were reported to Hockey Canada.
Only eight were reported by skaters with full face protection.
They didn’t indicate what percentage those numbers represent.
It’s also estimated Junior B teams will see a 71 per cent reduction in major medical and dental premiums under the Hockey Canada insurance program.