Editorial – Protective nets for all indoor hockey arenas should be mandatory

Mac Olsen

I find myself agreeing with a Quebec coroner regarding the need for protective nets in hockey arenas, to reduce the risk of deaths from pucks.

On Sept. 4, the National Post published a story by the Canadian Press regarding a Quebec coroner’s recommendation for the provincial government to study the possibility of requiring hockey arenas to install protective nets. Coroner Steeve Poisson made this recommendation following the death of a 12-year-old girl from a head injury, due to being hit by a puck.

The incident occurred on April 1, 2017 at an arena in Salluit, a community in northern Nunavik.

As per the story:

“Poisson says a protective net around the perimeter of the arena would probably have saved the girl’s life.

“He has recommended that Quebec’s department of education, leisure and sport study the effectiveness of installing netting in all hockey arenas in Quebec.”

Certainly, I appreciate the value of these protective nets. I worked for the Thompson Citizen in Thompson, Manitoba from 2001 to 2007.

While covering a hockey game in a First Nations community in northern Manitoba in the fall of 2001, the puck came in my direction and hit me on the leg. It wasn’t very hard, but it could have resulted in a substantial injury to me. That incident gave me an appreciation for the puck as an inadvertant flying projectile.

In the fall of 2003, a protective net was installed in the arena in Thompson, which I was glad to see.

I am also glad to see that the Falher Regional Recreation Complex, the H.W. Fish Arena in McLennan, and both arenas in High Prairie have protective nets. I would certainly recommend the arena in Donnelly be provided with one as well.

Whether they should be required for outdoor arenas, like the one in Jean Cote, is another matter. That arena is small and the type of hockey played there is recreational, not competitive, and there aren’t any spectator bleachers around it.

I have raised the issue of the “nanny state” in previous columns, that government and society can swing the pendulum on safety concerns from one extreme to another, unnecessarily.

However, in the case of protective nets for arenas, the “nanny state” analogy does not apply.

If anyone takes issue with the cost of installing a protective net at an arena, I would pose the question: Is the cost of protecting a person from injury or death too high?

I certainly wouldn’t want to have to explain to a grieving parent whose child was severely injured or died from a hockey puck, that affordability for the protective net was the reason it wasn’t installed. No, I think protective nets should be mandated for every indoor hockey arena, right across Canada.

Safety is not an option when it comes to keeping children and adults protected from the impact of hockey pucks. And if anyone asks why, just look at the tragic death of the 12-year-old girl in Nunavik for your answer.


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