Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cougars coaches don helmets

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
A couple of years ago, shortly after signing on as head coach of the WHL’s
Prince George Cougars, Drew Schoneck took a fall during practice and came
awfully close to hitting his head on the boards.
A few weeks ago, Cougars assistant coach Wade Klippenstein took part in an
on-ice minor hockey clinic for which he had to wear a helmet.
One thing led to another and now Schoneck and Klippenstein have made helmets
part of their standard practice equipment, the first coaches in the WHL to
do so.
“We’re not trying to make a statement to the league saying everybody should
wear one,” Schoneck said prior to Wednesday night’s WHL game between the
Cougars and Kamloops Blazers at Interior Savings Centre. “I think it should
be a personal choice. Wade and I have made the choice that we are going to
do it and if everybody else jumps on board, great.
“If they don’t, that’s the choice they are going to make.”
Minor hockey coaches in B.C. won’t have a choice after Dec. 1. B.C. Hockey
has legislated that all minor hockey coaches must wear helmets during
practices as of Dec. 1. If a coach doesn’t wear a CSA-approved helmet, the
practice isn’t sanctioned, which means there isn’t any insurance coverage.
In Saskatchewan, the province’s hockey association released a statement this
week, recommending “that all registered team officials wear helmets during
all on-ice activities that a registered team official participates in.”
All of this became especially pertinent in October. Ron Ebbesen, an
assistant coach with a midget AAA team in Strathmore, Alta., fell and hit
his head during an Oct. 7 practice. He died on Oct. 23.
A week later, Schoneck and Klippenstein were wearing helmets.
“We both have young kids and we’re in the thick of things at practice,”
Schoneck said, “moreso even than minor hockey coaches . . . pucks are flying
around our heads constantly. We thought that it’s better to maybe look a
little bit funny on the ice with your guys and be safe than to take one off
the side of the head.”
Schoneck added that while he was waiting for a reaction from the players,
there really wasn’t one.
“It really only makes sense,” he said. “It’s a safety thing. There’ve been a
number of close calls for myself and I’m sure Wade, too, because we’re on
the ice and doing things.
“These guys are working at a high tempo and anyone of these guys could lose
an edge at any time, or even a coach could lose an edge. People who saw me
skate before . . . even at my best I wasn’t real smooth out there.
“It’s just a safety issue. We felt, why take a risk. If we can keep ourselves
that much safer then that’s what we want to do.”
It doesn’t hurt, Schoneck admitted, that he and Klippenstein perhaps are
setting an example for other coaches, including those in minor hockey, to
follow.
“I hope so,” he said. “I know there are probably a lot of coaches who don’t
want to do it and who are (against) it. But at the end of the day you have
to be safety-first and family-first.”
Schoneck and Klippenstein first donned helmets for practice on Oct. 30. Now
they won’t be without them. In fact, Schoneck said he went onto the ice for
a recent session in Portland and immediately felt that something was
missing.
“I couldn’t figure out what it was,” said Schoneck. “Then it dawned on me.”
Yes, he had forgotten his helmet. Yes, he went back to the dressing room and
got it.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca

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