If You Wear a Full Shield, You’re Part of the Problem.
Being the loyal Red Wings fan I am, I was watching the game versus New Jersey last week, and an intermission “topic” (I use this term loosely) was that a full shield should be mandatory for players in the NHL. I about lost it. The idea of an NHL wear a full shield is mandatory is absolutely moronic, for more than a few reasons. First, let’s throw accountability, something our game is famous for, out the window. The dying breed of the enforcer is giving way to the goal-scoring, silky-mitted young guns who can post 20-30 goals plus a year, and make it look like nothing. Why? Because they still have enforcers. Every team has ONE, Jordin Tootoo for example, would never let someone get away with smashing his high scoring teammate into the boards. Players know there will always be a bell to answer to, and that is the enforcer. Second, stick infractions. Far too many times I have taken a stick up high, even with my half shield on, and I can say 9 out of 10 times, it was the guy on the other team wearing a full shield. If it was up to me, kids would play with a half shield the second they hit high school, but safety and keeping parents’ dental bills down is a much better option. However, from a very young age, stick control is not something that is given the attention it needs. Many games, I have seen at the high school level have sometimes one or two high sticking penalties alone. I firmly believe that a player knowing his stick is merely going to deflect off of that player’s shield, instead of causing them any harm, is the reason in today’s adult leagues and beyond we see the amount of high-stick infractions we do. That being said, what can be done to mitigate this? We will never see a full shield mandatory NHL (God willing), but what if we increased those all-too-common high-sticking penalties to be a 4 minute double minor in youth hockey? USA Hockey already has the 2-10-game penalty if you draw blood on someone, so why not help to mitigate the risk? There is no way to stop a high stick here and there, I understand, but I feel this slight change in youth hockey rules could make a difference in the long-run careers of these youth.
I asked a friend of mine, who wears a full shield, why he chose to. His response “it’s safe”. But that very night, he took out 4 of an opponents front teeth. How? A high stick. I’m not complaining because I hate taking sticks to the face, and believe me, I do. But the irritating part, is that the piece of equipment keeping others safe, is the reason that the game is losing a valuable value; accountability. I know that in a sunday night C league, I am in the minority wearing a half-shield. However, I wear it because I’d rather lose teeth than eyesight. Food for thought.