Aldergrove Kodiaks associate coach and general manager Rick Harkins has no problem with junior B hockey players being mandated to wear full face protection, starting next season.
Actually, he supports the move.
“Everything nowadays comes (down) to litigation and insurance, so now we’ll save thousands (of dollars) on dental coverage on these kids,” said Harkins, who is on the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s steering committee.
“It’s a good thing.”
In a memorandum sent this week to BC Hockey’s Junior Committee, Chief Executive Officer Barry Petrachenko stated the BC Hockey board of directors “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 PJHL, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), and two B.C. teams in the North West Junior Hockey League (Fort St. John Huskies and the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks).
It also covers the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) — where the Peninsula Panthers in North Saanich have already adopted the change this season.
The change will not be implemented at the Junior A level in B.C., or in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Hawkins believes this new rule will all but eliminate fighting in the PJHL, in line with the direction the league has been moving towards, anyway.
“If you (take your helmet off to fight), you’ll get a major, major suspension,” Harkins said. “Probably a minimum of six games, sort of thing. It’s going to deter the fighting in the game.”
Harkins noted that if PJHL players dropped the gloves in the last 10 minutes of a game, they are slapped with a game suspension.
“We’ve tried to take it (fighting) out of our league for quite a few years now, and the product on the ice has improved immensely,” Harkins said.
When Harkins first got involved with the junior B loop, the game at that level was known as “jungle B.”
“Now people come out and are entertained,” he said. “Now they see a lot of skill. The skill and development of these players has gone through the roof now that they’ve cut down on the fighting. We’re always trying to improve the game and the safety of the game for these kids, and the entertainment value for our fans.”
So far, every change the PJHL has made in recent years has turned out to be a very good decision for the game, in Harkins’ opinion.
“It’s going to be a change for a lot of kids, because the kids always look forward to coming out of minor hockey where they could wear a half visor,” Harkins said.
They were happy, he pointed out, “until they had to have their teeth replaced or have a scar on their face.”
Trappers coach weighs in
Langley Trappers associate coach and assistant GM Brad Bakken has lost teeth playing at the junior level, so in that respect, he says he “definitely understands why (junior B hockey) is moving towards this.”
Bakken said the goal is to save costs on players’ dental bills while making sure they have all of their teeth once their junior B career comes to an end.
Bakken lost the front row of his teeth playing for the BCHL’s Langley Chiefs in 2008 and three of his bottom teeth in 2007 playing for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
Even so, he says he is an “old school guy” who likes the feel of having made the transition from minor hockey to junior, and losing the full face protection in favour of the half visor in the process.
“But I know it will do a lot of good for the safety of players; it will change the game and it might make the game even faster,” Bakken acknowledged.
Bakken also pointed out that the PJHL is a developmental league and a pathway to the BCHL and, possibly, the NCAA college ranks where full face protection is also mandatory, so in that sense, he feels it will be a natural progression.