The Canadian Junior Hockey League announced over the weekend that neck guards will be mandatory for players starting immediately as equipment is available.
This will impact all leagues in the CJHL including the MJHL.
Steinbach Pistons head coach Paul Dyck says the announcement was expected. "We've seen the direction that it's been going with the CHL, the QMJHL, the OHL already using them, and then the WHL saying they're going to them as well. It was inevitable that the decision was going to be made and we'd be using them for the remainder of the season as they become available."
As for how it will affect players, Dyck, a long-time hockey player turned coach, believes it will have almost zero impact, especially at the Junior A level. "I think it has minimal effect because players who are under the age of 18 have already been wearing them. I think for the players, it's something they've worn to almost this point, they may be just one year removed from wearing a neck guard. I really can't see it being a massive adjustment for players."
Dyck notes it's another piece of equipment that the team will offer to players meaning a bit more expense. "I think it might add to the budget to some degree, we're going to secure cut-resistant neck protection now going forward. We're looking at providing for the players. We'll select a certain neck guard but if they want to wear alternative protection, that's their prerogative. We're going to have a discussion on Monday with the players, looking at what they want to wear and what it should look like. We haven't made a decision on that yet."
There's an important part of the announcement that states it's a mandatory piece of equipment now but it's subject to the product being available. Dyck says it could be a bit yet before every player is outfitted with the new protection. "We've been in communication with our CCM rep and there is a bit of a shortage right now. My understanding is that it's probably in the next month or so that their stock will be increased. We don't really know, we haven't been given a specific date on when they'll be available. Really, the direction we've been given is as soon as possible, get your teams into them."
The CJHL mandate officially went into effect Saturday, November 3rd, 2023, stating all nine CJHL-member leagues unanimously approved the decision.