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.”


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.


Just Posted

Last chance to say hello to the future

Saanich 150 time capsule on display at municipal hall

Fire safety rolls out to Oak Bay elementary schools

Fire education comes to three area elementary schools starting April 9

Giants draw first blood in WHL playoff series vs. Victoria

Home ice advantage non-existent for Royals against arch-rival Vancouver

Saanich makes appeal for regional fire dispatch system

Five CRD communities drop Saanich service in favour of Surrey

Oak Bay cyclists have new resource to aid in health and fitness

Bike Fix Station installed at Rec Centre thanks to Firefighters Charitable Foundation

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 23, 2018

B.C. umpire has developed thick skin after 30 years listening to insults

Scott McLaren pays no mind to comments from the cheap seats

Musicians Sarah Harmer, Grimes join B.C. anti-pipeline protests

Musicians are in Vancouver for the Juno Awards on Sunday night

Saanich invites input on garden suites

Early returns suggest support for the legalization of garden suites, but the… Continue reading

Canadian cities hold March for our Lives events in wake of Florida shooting

Hundreds of people support the massive March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.

Health officials called after acid spill near B.C.-Alberta border leaks into creek

Tanker truck crashed south of Dawson Creek, spilling 17,000 litres of hydrochloric acid

Embattled band Hedley plays last show in B.C. before hiatus

About 3,000 tickets had sold for final performance at Kelowna’s Prospera Place

Public warned not to eat herring eggs harvested from French Creek to Qualicum Bay

Island Health reports vibrio cholerae infection linked to eating herring eggs

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Most Read