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An Open Letter to Coaches Everywhere

By Debbie Wilkinson, 10/02/23, 10:00AM EDT


Everyone needs to wear a strapped helmet on the ice, no excuses

Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa Photography

You don’t know me or my family, but I lost my husband a number of years ago to a head injury incurred while coaching U15-aged children at a rep tryout. He was hit from behind while instructing a group of boys.

This letter is not about my husband, but about you, the coaches. There is no valid reason as to why you are also not at risk of sustaining a life-threatening injury, or maybe worse yet, a paralyzing one. A review of the details of my husband’s death revealed that, had he been wearing a helmet, he would have had a concussion and whiplash, but he would have fully recovered from his injury. I understand that it can’t happen to you, it couldn’t happen to him either. The irony of this is he was a safety engineer with a major car manufacturer. The impact of his sudden and tragic death left a great void in many lives. Consider what he missed: He never saw his son play in his first NHL game, never saw him win his first NHL game or achieve his first NHL shutout.He missed the birth of his precious little granddaughter and many more highlights.  

Is this what you want your family to experience?

Imagine the devastation the young man who accidentally hit my husband feels to this day, no amount of therapy can stop the nightmares.

To you Coaches, we do applaud and appreciate your efforts in volunteering your time and talents in coaching our young people. However, the people we really care about are your spouses, children, family, friends, and co-workers who will have to pick up the pieces of their lives without you and ask the question: ‘Why me?’

So again, there is no valid reason why you should not put on a helmet when coaching, no matter in what capacity or at what level of competition. Consider what the outcome could be and above all consider your family and friends and what your loss could mean to them. Remember, we protect our children at all costs. What about you? Their idol, their mentor, and most likely, their main source of support. You have choices to make and I hope you consider all aspects of these choices.

Thank you for listening to my plea, to don your helmets proudly because you care about others, about their welfare and well-being, and most importantly, about yourselves.

Yours truly,
Debbie Wilkinson

Helmets must be worn at all times on the ice for ALL on-ice activities with straps and fasteners attached. Helmets are mandatory for any volunteers or third-party individuals, including those assisting with any Programming Novice and Below implementation, on-ice helpers, paid or volunteer demonstrators or specialty coaches. This rule applies for whoever is on the ice, no matter how many years they have been skating or for how long they have been involved in hockey.

A helmet reduces the risk of serious brain injury. An unsecured helmet can become loose or removed during a collision or fall, exposing the head for direct contact with the ice.

Unfortunately, reminders like this are needed when stories from the hockey world emerge of volunteers from the community suffering tragic injuries as a result of not wearing a helmet properly or at all.

Rowan's Law Information

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