Junior B hockey players across the province will be wearing full face protection next season.
In a memo to BC Hockey’s Junior Committee, CEO Barry Petrachenko stated the BC Hockey board “has mandated that full face protection is required by all BC Hockey Junior B players starting for the 2018-2019 season.”
The requirement will go into effect in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, meaning it will include the Nelson Leafs.
The Pacific Junior Hockey League, Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and two B.C. teams in the North West Junior Hockey League (Fort St. John Huskies and Dawson Creek Junior Canucks) will also feature face protection.
The change will not be implemented at the Junior A level in B.C., or in the Western Hockey League.
The Peninsula Panthers of the VIJHL were the first team to make full face protection mandatory this season.
“Everybody in this league … can think of a time when a visor or face cage could have prevented an injury,” Panthers’ GM Pete Zubersky said.
Petrachenko said during the summer that BC Hockey supports Peninsula’s move to prevent player injury. Zubersky met with him earlier this year, after VIJHL league meetings resulted in no solid action to adopt full face protection. At the time, Petrachenko said change takes time and BC Hockey will be looking at statistics over the season and will speak with its other junior hockey member associations about further action.
Barb Byrne, president of the VIJHL, says the league did not adopt full face shields this season, as the team ownership was split on the issue. As well, adopting the policy would require teams to buy new equipment. She said by the time the discussion was on the table, most teams already had their budgets set for the season.
“Pete (Zubersky) was adamant that it was the right thing to do,” Byrne said, noting that Zubersky “was visionary” and forward-thinking. “It’s great news for everybody, especially our players. We are a developmental league and we don’t want to be assisting in disabling or disfiguring them.”
Byrne said adopting full face protection for the players will have an immediate impact by reducing the amount of face injuries and dental claims.