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From past and present experiences in Canadian hockey, there seems to be a definite link between the rules of the game and their application (or lack thereof) and the potential for injuries of any type as a result of playing the sport.
Most people feel, rightly or wrongly, that the focal point of our sport with regard to injury incidence and prevention is officiating. The major roadblock which has confronted various hockey constituents, and which is still very much present to this day, is a variety of attitudes towards the way a game should be played. For the official as well as for the administrator, the task often becomes difficult, as they both have to deal with a wide gamut of attitudes towards the sport and try to maintain order and harmony among players, coaches, team and league executives, fans, the media, and the general public.
Clear progress was evident with the advent of facial protection. However, it seems that this positive step has brought on a false sense of security on the players' part and a permissive attitude on the part of officials (among others). The ensuing spinal injuries have recently forced the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) to toughen up rules on checking from behind and to initiate a national movement to cut down on stick infractions. At the present time, we seem to be going in the right direction. The key to success, the CAHA has found, is public awareness and education. Specifically, it recognizes the necessity for the officials to enforce the rules as intended, thereby putting the onus on the coaches, the players, and several other game constituents to adjust their attitudes and habits accordingly.
ice hockey, rules, injuries, officiating, attitudes, spinal injuries, public awareness, public education
Manager of officiating, Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, Gloucester (Ottawa), Ontario