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posted December 10, 2006

Helmets For Shinny Hockey??

In 2002, the “Skating Harmonization Committee” advised the directors of Parks and Recreation to bring in a new mandatory helmet policy for indoor and outdoor arenas. The directors approved the policy, on the basis of general risk.

The policy has not caught on at all rinks. Many shinny hockey players insist that shinny is a unique sport with its own rules and customs. They say it’s a game not played with protective equipment, which is exactly why the players are not allowed to raise the puck or check each other. Many shinny players agree with Don Cherry’s assertion: more protective hockey armour results in more aggression and more injuries, and that’s why they love civilized game of shinny. Certainly the number of injuries during shinny games at Dufferin Rink, since it was rebuilt in 1993, has been very small. And most of those injuries resulted from players catching their skates on rough ice, especially along the sides and in the corners, and hurting a shoulder or a limb. That problem needs better ice maintenance rather than a helmet.

Some of the Dufferin Rink friends have asked the City to revisit the shinny hockey policy. They want the City to adopt some clear principles for their risk-based policies:

1. No new policy without supporting documentation publicly accessible (e.g. ice rink injury numbers, with basic details of circumstances and type of injury, no vague “studies show…”).
2. No new policy without prior, open consultation with those who will be affected.
3. Publicly accessible record-keeping to verify that a new policy has beneficial results as well as restrictions.

These are good guidelines for all risk-based policy making, not often observed – here’s a good place to begin.

So far, supporting documentation is not available from the skating committee. There was no public consultation with shinny players about altering the game, and there is no analysis of shinny injuries that would allow comparison. A freedom of information request turned up only two outdoor ice rink injury claims across the whole city since amalgamation (9 years), but no details on these injuries were provided. And for comparison, although soccer is by far the highest-injury (commonly-played) sport, there was no evidence that soccer risk had resulted in any helmets-for-soccer discussion.

In other words, the case for compulsory shinny hockey helmets has not been made. Back to the drawing board. On Dec.5, CELOS, our local research group hosted a meeting with rink staff and two City supervisors, to get started on this issue. This winter, CELOS researchers will collaborate with rink staff and City supervisors to actually look at the existing data, keep a better record, and consult with shinny players. To help with this task: contact [email protected].

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Content last modified on November 25, 2007, at 07:42 PM EST