Most initiatives to reduce dangerous checks — head shots, hits from behind — puts the onus on changing the behaviour of the checking player. That is all well and good, but part of making hockey safer involves deterring players from risky acts, which is hard to do in a sport so fast-moving.
Now two New England prep schools, prompted by a eureka moment from Tom Smith, a former high school player whose life was altered by a spinal cord injury, are trying something new. The brainstorm: paint a 40-inch warning track around the perimeter of the ice surface, helping players strengthen their bearings and improve their posture when they are in a vulnerable position, three feet out from the boards.
From Michael Rosenberg:
It's called a “look up line” and is meant to be a visual cue to players – a sort of warning track – to look up when crashing into the boards, a safer play than ducking down, that could prevent broken necks and paralysis.
"If you see orange, pick your head up," said Smith.
Smith has faced-off against push-back in some circles. There is concern that the game may somehow be impacted.
"There is some resistance just because it's new," said Smith. "But we have not heard an educated response as to why we shouldn’t do this."
The 'look-up line' extends 40 inches from the base of the boards.
It’s been installed at two schools, Phillis Academy Andover and Pingree, and by October it should be in more than 100 rinks across 15 states. (WBZ Boston)
Needless to say, one would need to see this innovation in practice to determines its efficacy. It is something simple and uncomplicated, though, and it only requires having arena staff paint a portion of the ice surface orange, so it's hard to imagine why it would be cost-prohibitive.
The WBZ article says two U.S. prep schools have added the look-up line "and by October it should be in more than 100 rinks across 15 states." If there is a demonstrated drop-off in injuries caused by checks from behind, there's no reason to think it might not spread throughout North America.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.