Junior team adopts full-face protection

Three weeks or so until game one for Trail Smoke Eaters

Stax, it is.

The Smokies picked the name most likely to be supported by its hoped-for surge of younger fans, which is all good and their right as a commercial enterprise. I don’t hate it – it was my second choice all along.

But, it will be far less fun to explain, with myth and truthiness, than the, “history,” laden runner-up, when those unfamiliar with local hockey’s background ask about it. The Murphys are highly successful business folks, so I assume, too, that they have commercializing offshoots ready to go.

Three weeks or so before game one for 2017-18.

• It is likely a good thing that the BCHL is wading deeply into the concussion issue. Its players are kids, and adult responsibility, particularly of the, “in loco parentis,” kind inherent in operating junior hockey teams, mandates that those in charge do whatever they can to protect those players’ interests.

It will be interesting to see, then, how B.C. junior leagues react to the Peninsula Panthers decision to require all of their players to wear full face (cage or visor, and preferably cage) protection from here on out. The Panthers, of the Junior B Vancouver Island Hockey League, say, Logic Trumped Tradition when it came to the decision, and the team has 100 per cent support from parents of the players on this season’s roster.

Lots of old timers will grumble about taking the macho out of hockey-as-we-knew-it, but with a generation of players reaching elite levels after having spent their whole hockey lives fully protected and sticks up, the Panthers may be onto the only sensible solution to facial, including dental, injuries.

Given that the BCHL has pretty much taken fighting out of the game, the junior B move may not be a step too far. Other than making the players harder to identify by visage, the biggest complaint about full face protection has always been the unfairness it could bring in a scrap between a fully protected player and one whose face was vulnerable. That may soon be a complete non factor.

A downside, unless it is heavily and strictly officiated, may be a tendency among players not to bother to bring their sticks down, as they often do not bother at younger levels. That must be curtailed, almost at any cost, because the speed and strength of modern players can mean serious injury even to a mostly protected head.

The NCAA, by the way, has mandated full facial protection for more than three decades. Players in the BCHL, at least a great many of them, are looking for opportunities in the NCAA. They might be happy at the thought of getting some experience with the concept. The Ontario Junior (A) Hockey League will go to full face protection for all its players this season.

Stay tuned.

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