Neck guards should be mandatory for all ages
It is astonishing to me that hockey governing bodies, such as USA Hockey and the Amateur Athletic Union, do not require neck protection be worn by ALL participants.
To me, the dirty little secret about Youth hockey is this: Each and every child is literally only a razor-edged skate blade away from unmitigated disaster.
The sheer size, weight and speed of current young players dictates that scenarios involving a player being toppled in such a way that he/she cannot control where/how their blades are headed is bound to occur.
But there’s a simple solution: MAKE NECK PROTECTION MANDATORY AT ALL LEVELS, Mini-Mite through Division I College hockey.
Now, referees may complain about additional responsibilities in enforcing such a rule. But, as far as I’m concerned, the vast majority of today’s officials do not manage the game from the perspective of insuring a child’s safety FIRST. They care more about enforcing the general rules and keeping the game moving crisply, most especially during tournament play.
This sort of mandatory neck protection rule, if implemented, will force on-ice game officials to begin concentrating more on safety versus the flow of a game. And that would be a massive welcome change indeed.
But instead of waiting for the governing body to enforce such a rule, I would recommend all coaches and parents take the offensive and insist your entire club wears a neck protector for all on-ice match competition and practices. And, at the very least, make sure your own player is wearing one.
Who knows when and if the governing bodies will wake up and actually create compulsory neck-protection guidelines?
Be ahead of the curve. Become a caring and responsible adult leader and mentor, and you’ll have paved the way for your child to be safe on the ice.
So consider placing the youngsters first. That should come naturally anyway to a perceived positive, action-oriented parent or coach.
Best of luck.
Paul T. Lubanski is president of Wilderness Xtreme Sports. He can be contacted at 248-762-6998.