UNCAGED: fewer facial injuries, but more head contact ‘the norm’ with full facial protection for Jr. B Hockey in BC

Caden Fanshaw, Matthew Fraser, Sara Wasouf, Maria Vinca / December 4, 2019

Head Coach Brad Tippett claims one of the biggest reasons for the change within BC Hockey was his 2017-18 Peninsula Panthers team. (Photo: Gordon Lee/ Peninsula Panthers)

The trend setter

In 2018, a new rule came into effect for three junior hockey leagues in B.C.

The Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL), Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), and the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) now require that 16-20 year old players wear full face cages instead of visors.

They’ve played a full season with the cages but whether the change has made the game safer overall is being contested.

One coach pushed for the cage rule and made his team comply a full season before it’s official implementation.

Head Coach Brad Tippett says it was an easy decision to make.

As we moved along the process the question moved from why would we do this to why wouldn’t we do this?”

Brad Tippett is the brother of current Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett, and a former pro hockey player himself.  Tippett says he reached out to his colleagues and teammates about the potential for full facial shields.

“We polled a lot of people we talked to a lot of people from minor hockey people to a former NHL General Manager and connections that I had, and it’s funny because he was the one that was all for it.”

“Logic trumps tradition”

60-year-old Brad Tippett says this type of controversy is something he’s heard since he played pro hockey in 1979 and the NHL made it mandatory to wear a helmet.

Tippett says helmets seemed to have worked out for the game of hockey, so why can’t cages.

“There was a hulabaloo from the players and you know what it turned out to be not a big deal, it really turned out not to be a big deal and this compares to today’s situation as an exact parallel. There was a few guys who secretly thought this is okay and the other the other thing is it allows some smaller guys the opportunity to play and guys that don’t want to play because they were scared.”

Brad TippettHead Coach, Peninsula Panthers (VIJHL)https://

Tippett says the transition into full facial protection at the Junior “B” level is a logical one. He expects the push back from players and coaches to tone down.

He says seeing a player go down with a face or dental injury may give people a different sense of how dangerous the game is without cages.

Tippett says the new rules haven’t caused his team’s attendance to go down. He says more grandparents go to watch games now that they aren’t worried about their loved ones being harmed on the ice.