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posted January 30, 2014

Helmet update

Helmet update: #1. pleasure-skating.

The January newsletter was mostly about helmets. Follow-up calls to other cities across Canada turned up the information that Toronto and Halifax are the only cities that require helmets to be worn for pleasure-skating at Municipal outdoor rinks. (Halifax has only one outdoor rink.) In Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, and Fredericton, helmets are recommended for pleasure-skating at outdoor rinks – which means that if kids are wearing a bike helmet, or a snowboard helmet, or the hood of their snowsuit, they’re not turned away.

But in Toronto (with one important exception) children under six are required to wear a hockey helmet approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) – no U.S. or European helmet certification accepted. The exception: Harbourfront's Natrel Rink, not run by the City, has no helmet requirement for pleasure-skaters of any age.

The head of a helmet advocacy institute in Washington DC sent us links to a page from the U.S. Federal Government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. They’ve posted a table that lists the different kinds of helmets and what they’re designed for. Hockey helmets are designated as “Team sport helmets...designed to protect against multiple head impacts typically occurring in the sport (e.g., ball, puck, or stick impacts; player contact; etc.), and, generally, can continue to be used after such impacts.” There is no certified pleasure-skating helmet category in either Canada or the U.S., so the CPSC recommends certified bike helmets for pleasure-skating.

In other words, requiring hockey helmets for pleasure-skating only makes sense where the little pleasure-skaters will be sharing the ice with hockey players who may be shooting pucks at them, or hitting their heads with sticks, or body-checking them. But for a fall on a hard surface like ice or a sidewalk, bike helmets are just as protective as hockey helmets – that is, neither can prevent an unlucky concussion, but both will keep a goose egg or a gash to a reasonable size.

The supervisor of the city’s leisure and instructional skate programs in Etobicoke has agreed to meet in early February. We’ll swap information about the requirement for little kids in Toronto to wear hockey helmets when they go pleasure-skating. He says he’ll bring along a recreation staff who is a helmet specialist. Watch the newsletter for follow-up.

Helmet Update: #2. Shinny hockey.

Toronto (with 51 city-run outdoor rinks) and Mississauga (with three city-run outdoor rinks) were the only cities we could find where helmets are mandatory for outdoor shinny hockey. Calgary has 5 city-run rinks plus upwards of 190 community-run outdoor rinks, Edmonton has 5 city-run rinks plus over 20 run by community groups, Regina has 42 city-run rinks, Winnipeg has 40 city-run rinks plus upwards of 60 run by community groups, Ottawa has just over 250 community-run rinks, Montreal has just under 250 city-run rinks, and Fredericton has 8 city-run rinks. (Halifax has no outdoor hockey rinks.) All of these rinks, including those that are supervised at times, either recommend helmets for shinny hockey or have no signs up at all.

Helmet update #3. Response from Jim Hart, general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation.

On January 9, we sent Mr.Hart a copy of the “Special Helmets issue” with a cover letter asking him to revisit the helmet rules now, welcoming the wide-ranging rink-user input that was missing the first time. By the time this update went to print (Jan.30), he had not answered.

update: On January 31st, 2014, we received this response

Helmet update #4: A Calgary group called RestoreCSA has filed a Request for Investigation with the relevant departments of NAFTA signatory governments and the designated Investigating Authorities of the NAFTA Secretariat. They say that the CSA’s monopoly on hockey helmet certification in Canada “appears to be in violation of multiple sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”

Helmet update #5: cross-country data on shinny-related head injuries or lawsuits

Without exception, none of the cities we contacted had based their helmet decisions (including mandatory helmet use for indoor skating and shinny hockey) on any actual injury data that they could pass on to us. Not on any lawsuit counts either. Just guesswork.

A shinny waiver letter, from the Town of Banff in Alberta.

The town requires full hockey equipment to be worn for indoor shinny hockey, but obviously they don’t think that’s enough. This is what you have to sign to be allowed to play shinny:

“ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RISK: I am aware that playing or practicing to play/participate in any sport can be a dangerous activity involving MANY RISKS OF INJURY. I understand that the dangers and risks of playing or practicing to play/participate in shinny hockey include, but are not limited to, death, serious neck and spinal injuries which may result in complete or partial paralysis, brain damage, serious injury to virtually all internal organs, serious injury to virtually all bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons and other aspects of the muscular skeletal system, and serious injury or impairment to other aspects of my body, general health and well being. I understand that the dangers and risks of playing or practicing to play/participate in shinny hockey may result not only in serious injury, but in a serious impairment of my future abilities to earn a living, to engage in other business, social and recreational activities, and generally to enjoy life.”

Editor’s note: Maybe oil painting would be a better free-time activity, or chess....


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