Helmets for minor hockey coaches increase safety on the ice

Safety has become the main focus when it comes down to virtually anything nowadays. In every job, sport, and even in our daily lives the message is about being safe and careful.

Safety has become the main focus when it comes down to virtually anything nowadays. In every job, sport, and even in our daily lives the message is about being safe and careful.

Safety ads and commercials are on billboards, televisions and the radio. We tell our children to wear kneepads while rollerblading, a helmet while biking and warn them about the dangers of the road, etc and give them the tools to protect themselves.

When getting a tour of a business or workplace more than likely the topic of safety is on the top of the list. There are hardhats, steel-toed boots, certain regulations, safety harnesses, flame retardant clothing, gloves, etc. all designed to keep us safe. There are people who are employed to go around to different businesses and make sure that every business is abiding by the province’s safety regulations. After all, it’s ‘safety first’.

These safety rules and regulations that have taken over our country may sometimes seem farfetched or over the top but virtually every safety rule has been put into place for a reason.

The rules are usually put into action following an incident, a death or a serious injury. Sometimes it only takes one or two accidents for the rules to be established and other times it takes a recurring problem to enforce safety precautions.

One of the province’s most recent safety precaution that will be enforced in the near future involves the safety of minor hockey coaches.

On Oct. 7 Rob Ebbesen, an assistant coach with the Strathmore Midget AAA team fell and hit his head on the ice and died on Oct. 23. Before that on Oct. 1 Mike Peters, a minor hockey coach in Medicine Hat caught an edge, tripped into the boards and fractured his skull.

Hockey Alberta has decided and will follow through with their decision that minor hockey coaches wear helmets while on ice during all practices and games.

In fact, the rule extends to all ice personnel, including trainers, assistant coaches, volunteers, etc. involved with the hockey games and practices. It is also being applied to inline hockey as well.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2009 any person who is not wearing a helmet during ice time will be suspended indefinitely. The new safety precaution is strongly being encouraged immediately but the later official date of Jan. 1 is set so that coaches and the like will have time to buy helmets.

The helmets must also meet the safety recommendations. All helmets must be CSA-approved with a strap that is securely fastened under the chin.

There have been mixed reactions to this, the opposing statement being that hockey coaches are adults who should be able to make their own choice of whether or not to wear a helmet.

Hockey, as a sport, builds relationships, trust, leadership, friendship, etc. It builds on the lives of our youth. If society and parents are constantly trying to keep growing kids safe and on their feet then there shouldn’t be a mixed message going out.

If parents tell their kids to wear kneepads when they rollerblade and then don’t wear any themselves because they are an adult and that somehow makes them less likely to get injured, there is a confusing message going out to their kids.

Safety is safety. If young hockey players are required to wear helmets while on the ice during practice and games and they see their coach skating around the rink unprotected, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Coaches wearing helmets will not only protect them from serious injuries like the recent happenings to the two Alberta coaches, but also reinforces the safety message.

Coaches are role models and leaders in the community and showing that they care about their own wellbeing by wearing a helmet too gives a great message to their young hockey players.

I can see how the new rule could be a nuisance and that coaches may feel like their choice is their choice but I can not see anything wrong with wearing helmets, it can only benefit the game and the safety of everyone on the ice.

I hope that, in Ponoka, if the new safety rule is upsetting to residents, that it won’t hinder anyone from volunteering, refereeing or coaching. Hockey is so valuable in our community, country and province and being advised to wear helmets will hopefully not turn anyone away from the game.

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