Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shields vs Cages

Yesterday, the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Rules Committee kicked off their offseason meetings. The committee meets every two years to revise and/or change any rules. This year, the main topic of discussion in Florida will be the debate over cages or shields on helmets. Currently, the NCAA mandates that all players wear full protective cages over their face.

There have been several years of talk over whether to eliminate the full cage in the college game. The basis for the argument is that every other level of hockey that is equivalent to NCAA hockey in the world plays with shields. Even lower level hockey sees the players sporting shields. The USHL and BCHL, both junior  developmental leagues that produce NCAA commitments like cows produce milk, both allow the use of shields. So, it must be a rather awkward transition to go back to the cage when these recruits step onto the ice with the full cage.

It is even thought that by introducing the shield into the college game, that it will make the game safer. How? because (a) players will naturally become less aggressive (for a lack of a better word) in the corners. Players will likely no longer target the face of an opponent in the corner, thus making the game safer for all involved. (b) players will no longer have metal bars running in the path of vision. Instead, there will be a clear plastic shield. This will increase vision for all players, and will reduce the time it takes to locate the puck on the ice. This not only makes the game safer because the player will find the puck sooner and not have the need to have his head down, but it could make for a better product of hockey.

Types of shields
Here is an example of a "Half Shield"
as worn by former Terrier Nick Bonino.
Like everything manufactured in hockey, there are different types of products. Different types of sticks (more flexible vs less flexible), Different types of skates (lighter vs stiffer)... etc... etc, you get my point. Well, the shield is no different. In the USHL/NHL/AHL players are allowed to wear a "half shield". This protects from the bridge of the nose, covering the eyes then connecting the helmet at the forehead. The proposed shield that would be used in college would be a "three quarter shield". This is a slightly larger shield (hence the name), that would cover and protect from the bottom of the nose to the beginning of the helmet at the forehead plus some of the orbital bone and side of the player's face.

Here is an example of a "three quarter
shield" being worn by
Danny Heatley.
(Photo from NHL Connection)
The advantage of the "three quarter shields" is that is virtually impossible to take a high stick in the eyes. The disadvantage is that because the shield covers from  the bottom of the nose, it tends to fog up from the player's breathing. The NCAA (from my understanding) does not want to go to the "half shield" because it does not protect the nose, so it looks like players will need to keep a towel on the bench to wipe away the fog if the NCAA does indeed convert to "three quarter shields" in 2013.

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