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Players on Canmore Eagles, AJHL to begin wearing face cages in 2023-24

Full facial protection, or face cages, will be required equipment for players in the Alberta Junior A Hockey League (AJHL) moving forward.

CANMORE – Full facial protection, or face cages or shields, will be required equipment for players in the Alberta Junior A Hockey League (AJHL) moving forward.

Abiding by Hockey Canada’s mandate, by the 2025-26 season, all AJHL players, such as those on the Canmore Eagles, will be required to wear face cages to “increase safety in the game.”

The AJHL laid out how it will be implemented at the annual general meeting in Canmore last month.

“Hockey Canada has approved a new facemask policy for all Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) teams. Beginning in the 2023-24 season and in every season afterwards, CJHL players born after December 31, 2004, must wear full facial protection during participation in all on-ice activities,” said an AJHL statement.

In the 2023-24 season, players aged 18 and under will be required to wear full facial protection. In 2024-25, players 19 and under will be required to wear a face cage, and by 2025-26, every player in the AJHL is required to under Hockey Canada’s mandate. CJHL players, teams and leagues may opt-in sooner.

Although the CJHL, which oversees the AJHL, and is affiliated with Hockey Canada, had been in discussions on the matter and did not implement face cages for the 2022-23 season.

Hockey Canada attempted to implement the rule change last December, but received pushback.

Andrew Milne, head coach and general manager of the Eagles, said he sees both sides of the argument, citing there will be less likelihood of oral damage with masks and they are being used in Division 1 hockey, where many players in the AJHL strive to be.

However, he said for a league that’s competing against other organizations such as the Western Hockey League and United States Hockey League, which don’t use face cages, the mask “looks inferior.”

“I think the cage looks a little minor hockey,” said Milne. “I do get the positives of it, but I think from a business, the product we’re putting on the ice, I would like to see it a little more professional looking, but the league has come down with that and that was part of the discussions they had with Hockey Canada and Hockey Canada’s mandate, so that’s the new rule in place and we’re going to have to abide by it.”

Prior to the rule change, protective head and facial gear for CJHL players included a mouth guard, helmet, and a clear plastic visor that covers the eyes and nose. Affiliate players under the age of 18 were required to wear face cages.

The wearing of CSA-certified face cages is “compulsory” for players registered with senior and major junior teams under Hockey Canada, as well as in all other categories and divisions including female hockey. The rule change is optional for male adult rec hockey.

“Player safety has always been a priority for Hockey Canada and its members and we continue to work together on ways to improve and increase safety in the game,” Hockey Canada previously said to the Outlook.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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