The provincial hockey union, BC Hockey, has made full cages in Junior B hockey mandatory taking effect during 2018-19.
The decision was made on Dec. 5 and will affect all Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) teams, including the Kamloops Storm, who’ve been playing some of their regular season games in Quesnel this season.
General manager and head coach of the 100 Mile Wranglers Dale Hladun was surprised at the decision, not knowing it was even being discussed.
“I understand they’re doing it to reduce insurance premiums and all that stuff because of facial injuries,” said Hladun.
“Whether I have an opinion or not on it isn’t the point, it’s law and we just have to deal with it.”
The KIJHL is not the only league required to adapt, with the Pacific Junior Hockey League, the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and the two British Columbian teams active in the Albertan based North West Junior Hockey League (Fort St. John Huskies and Dawson Creek Junior Canucks) also having to comply.
With the decision across the board, it means no players who disagree with the new ruling can jump ship, but Hladun figures it won’t affect the players much.
“The kids at our level, their goal is to go to Junior A and on to college and if you go to college, especially in the States, everybody has masks.
“Some of the kids want to wear half-shields and I get it, but throughout minor hockey, they had to wear them [cages] then so I guess they have to keep wearing them.”
Hladun, while admitting the full cages could help with keeping facial and dental injuries down, has considered how the change will impact the teams budget.
The team already supplies players with half shields, but Hladun wasn’t sure how much supplying cages would increase the expenditure on equipment. He did assert the team must adjust and comply with the ruling.
“I think some of us hockey guys, we get set in our ways with the way it should be and the game is always evolving and part of that is protection,” said Hladun.
“So if this hopefully keeps premiums down for the kids to play because hockey is expensive.”