Sacrifice Safety Or Gain Hockey Skills in Taking the Cage Off?

Mar 20 18:49 2011 Travis Loncar Print This Article

We learn to play hockey with a cage on our helmet, yet once we take it off, it's hard to go back.  Is it really worth the risk?

Growing up,Guest Posting developing my hockey skills, I always wore a caged helmet, as was required by the youth leagues in which I played. However, after I graduated from high school, and moved onto adult leagues and college inline leagues, the full cage was no longer a requirement. So, naturally, I immediately switched a half shield visor. Whether it was the idea of looking like a professional (as far as the helmet is concerned, but no further), or simply the prospect of higher visibility, whatever it was far outweighed the safety risks that came with abandoning the shield. Trust me, there are safety risks; I have a prime example. In my first summer of wearing the half shield (the Oakley that Crosby wears, of course), I skated past an opposing player, after which he attempted to lift my stick, missed, and as fate would have it, struck me straight in the mouth. Obviously, the big talker that I am on the ice, I wasn't wearing a mouth guard either, which didn't help. Consequently, (you guessed it) one of my front four teeth was cracked in half, exposing the bare nerve to the inherent coldness of the rink, and instilling a pain in my mouth unlike any I had ever felt. Let alone the financial loss, it was an absolutely miserable experience. Call me a wimp, but tooth pain is excruciating at its worst; and believe me, I got the worst of it. Two weeks later, though, I was back in my half shield (this time with a mouth guard). The question is, why?

You see, I tried to go back to my cage, but something was wrong. Something seemed different. Obviously, I was so far removed from my days of wearing it that I had completely forgot what it was like. I hated it. The shield had spoiled me (besides the tooth thing, of course). I was so accustomed to seeing the ice, the whole ice, that I felt lost inside the confines of the metal barrier. Even when I wore my shield, I raised it so that it wasn't actually be used, per se. With the cage, my entire periphery was missing. I could see straight ahead, but not left and right. It was awful! I had to switch back, no matter risk of injury or the substantial financial obligation to rectify it. And so, I did, and ever since, I've been wearing my shield (luckily free of further injury). But, does wearing a cage really limit your ability to utilize your hockey skills?

I think it's truly a situational, maybe even chronological kind of thing. Obviously, in college hockey, where great hockey skills are showcased in every game, the players are required to wear cages. And, as far as I'm concerned, these guys don't seem very limited by them. Now, that being said, I would credit this to the fact that most of them haven't spent a lot of time playing without the cage on. Sure, they may play around once in a while without the cage, or even without the helmet, but in most cases, they're wearing that full cage. They're so used to the visibility that they've learned to optimize it, taking full advantage of that which they can see, and developing the awareness of what's around them. For me, a player that has played with the cage for a good period of time and then switched to the visor, it's evident that the visibility is different. I've grown so fond (and have been so spoiled) by the view from the half shield, that I can't bear to go back to the cage. It's not only the lack of the periphery vision; it's the lack of that awareness of what's around me. It's almost frightening not being able to see horizontally after you've become so used to it. A player to your side, that can be easily seen with the shield, could be just as easily missed in the blind spot of the cage. I don't know, maybe it's just me; but I can't help but think it's extremely hard to go from visor to cage on the helmet. Likewise, it's extremely easy in the other direction. Who knows, maybe one day I'll smarten up and retreat to the safety of the full cage. One thing is certain; when that day comes, it's going to take a while to get used to.

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Travis Loncar
Travis Loncar

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