BC Hockey mandates cages for Jr. B players

For the first time in its history, BC Hockey has mandated full face shields for Junior B players, beginning next season.

The move will effect the Kelowna Chiefs of the KIJHL - a league that has yet to ban fighting.

Chiefs General Manager Grant Sheridan says they're waiting to see how that will affect the new helmet requirements.

"What happens to the rules in terms of grabbing cages, helmet removal, broken hands? Fighting - it doesn't make sense. But it's been part of the game, so it's still happening under the current rules," he said.

"It's a tough one to analyze - I think there's going to be some more changes that'll come out of the initial change for sure."

He says that while next year's rookies will already be used to the full cages, he suspects to hear from unhappy veterans.

"You see it from Midget to Junior, in that it's a step when you go from cage to visor. So I think that'll be mixed; the guys that have been able to wear visors as part of the junior experience, as they say. For kids to be able to leave home and wear a visor, it's a major mark in their life. But it statistically doesn't add up," he said.

Sheridan says the move had been talked about at the league's AGM in the offseason, but that he was a little surprised at the speed of the decision.

He also added that there are still concerns that will likely need to be addressed going forward, with one of those being whether the added sense of protection will have players become more reckless, especially when it comes to contact around the head.

"Tough to predict and unmeasurable at this point, but there will be data in the future as to - do we have more or less head contact penalties? Do we have more stick incidents for people that play that aggressive style? Do they lose even more respect for one another as a player? Tough to say."

BC Hockey says it's main reasoning for the move is cost savings in insurance.

Between 2010 and 2015, almost $288,000 worth of dental claims came in from 370 visor-ed players, compared to less than $8000 from eight players with full face protection.

It says teams will now see a 71% reduction to their premiums through Hockey Canada's medical insurance program.