Full Cage Decision Comes Down To Safety

Pushing and shoving after the whistle near the St Thomas net. (Photo by Jake Jeffrey)

All junior hockey leagues in the Ontario Hockey Association will be wearing full cages beginning next season.

The decision was made unanimously during the OHA’s Board of Directors meeting in February.

That includes the GOJHL’s Sarnia Legionnaires and Lambton Shores Predators, as well as the PJHL’s Mooretown Flags and Petrolia Flyers, among others.

Although some leagues under the OHA required full cages previously, the rule now applies province-wide. Until now, it was left to the individual player to decide whether or not to wear a half visor, or full cage.

OHA President Karen Phibbs says the decision came down to player safety.

“We have players who are in university, we have players that are working, we have players that are in high school, so we have to consider their future because a good chunk of them will likely have careers outside of hockey,” says Phibbs. “A dental injury is a lifelong injury that you live with, a broken arm will heal, but with a serious dental injury, it’s something you’re going to live with for the rest of your life. The decision was made for a lot of reasons, but safety was definitely the top one.”

Phibbs says she frequently hears from concerned parents who have spend thousands of dollars on their child’s teeth.

“Braces are the norm today, it seems like most young children wear them so they’ll have a great smile as a teenager,” she says. “It doesn’t take much, an accidental bump or high stick and your teeth could be damaged permanently.”

Phibbs says there is an extra insurance premium for teams who used the half visor, so this should help alleviate some costs for hockey clubs as well. It’s also cheaper for teams to supply the full cage, rather than visors, not to mention the majority of players entering the league will already be equipped with cages. A half visor costs upwards of $100, when a high end full cage goes for about $60.

A full cage would have prevented Sarnia Legionnaires forward Jake Vince from injury. Vince was clipped with a high stick during a game against LaSalle on January 12. He lost several teeth on the play and missed five games before returning to the line up nearly a month later.

Head Coach Mark Davis says a full cage would have made a difference.

“It was an accidental play, the guy got his stick up on Jake, but sometimes that’s all it takes, and unfortunately if he would have had a cage on he wouldn’t have lost any teeth.”

Vince has kept a full cage on since, which is something Davis has encouraged all his players to do.

“I told the guys at our last meeting, if anyone else wants to throw a cage on they are more than welcome to. If it helps us play harder and safer, and be a bit more comfortable in the corners, than by all means go for it.”

He says in the past, some first year players have had a tough time adjusting to the half visor.

“You wear a cage for all those years in minor hockey, then you take it off and it can completely change their game,” says Davis.

Phibbs says players chasing scholarships in the US, will have to switch to full cages if they are successful, so this will help that transition.

In lieu of a full cage, players will also have the option to wear a full visor.

The new regulation is fully supported by the Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada.