Some General Safety Advice
The amount of body armour which professional players don before venturing out onto the ice seems to confirm the common belief that ice hockey is a violent and dangerous sport. There are, of course, good reasons why pads, guards and helmets are worn. However, as long as you take sensible precautions, most accidents can be avoided easily.
That said, you should still always be aware when playing or practising that the puck, and the stick you are yielding, can be potentially deadly weapons when used irresponsibly. You should never hit the puck at eye-level; someone hit in the face with puck moving at a high velocity would be lucky to escape with only a broken nose. You should also be aware of players in your vicinity to avoid inflicting injuries with your stick.
Playing on frozen lakes and ponds
For many children and adults in parts of the United States and Canada, playing ice hockey on frozen lakes and ponds is a part of winter. Anyone venturing onto frozen waters ought to be aware, however, of the serious dangers that walking or skating on ice can present. It is very rarely cold enough in the UK for skating on frozen lakes and ponds to be safe, and anyone with the slightest doubt would be well-advised to keep off the ice.
If you do live in an area where it routinely becomes so cold that water on ponds and lakes freezes to a depth of several inches, and you are considering using the surface to practice, you should take sensible precautions to keep yourself safe. Remember that being immersed in very cold water can lower your core temperature enough to cause hypothermia in as little as 10-15 minutes, and death can follow soon after. Bear in mind the following things if you are considering skating on frozen lakes and ponds:
- Always check the thickness of the ice before you step out. This can be done by carefully making a hole in the surface with a chisel. The ice should be at least 5 inches thick before you even consider walking on it. You should also bear in mind that the thickness of the ice in one area does not necessarily mean that this is the case elsewhere. Check the thickness in several different places before you begin practicing. If there is any doubt in your mind about the safety of the ice, keep off!
- Never go onto the ice alone. If you were to fall through a gap in the ice, it might be extremely difficult for you to pull yourself out of the water. Skating with a friend at least ensures that someone is potentially on hand to lend assistance and get help quickly.
- It is a good idea to take a length of rope with you when you go skating to ensure that you are prepared for the worst case scenario. Remember that if ice is thin enough for someone to fall through it, it is also likely to be weak in the area surrounding it. If you have to rescue someone from the water, remaining on firm ice and throwing a length of rope to help the victim pull himself out is the safest strategy.
- Remember that you should only pull somebody out of the water if you can do so without falling in yourself. The situation will quickly become far worse if you are both immersed in the water and there is no-one to call for help. While it is best for someone who is immersed in cold water to be pulled out as quickly as possible, if this is impossible, the victim should try to remain calm, curl up in a ball by holding his/her knees and try to remain as still as possible. If it is obvious that the victim will be unable to get out of the water unaided, it is better to conserve heat energy than to flail around or swim around futilely.
- Anyone pulled out of cold water should seek medical attention, even if they feel better quickly. Delayed effects of immersion in very cold water can be very serious, or even fatal.
- When someone is pulled out of cold water, it is important to remove their wet clothing and wrap them in blankets and clothes to keep them warm. They should not be given alcohol. Also avoid massaging their body to warm them, as this can damage tissues after submersion in cold water.
- If a victim is not breathing and appears to have no pulse when they are pulled out of the water, never assume that they are dead. When the body becomes hypothermic, the metabolic rate is lowered and a person can appear to be dead when they are still alive; start CPR and don’t stop until medical help arrives.