Look-up Line to prevent injuries installed by Windsor Minor Hockey Association

The minor hockey association in Windsor, Ont. installed a “Look-up Line” at several local arenas in a bid to help prevent injuries when players crash into the boards.

A look-up line is similar to a warning track on baseball diamonds. The line is painted 90 cm, or three feet, from the boards along the perimeter of the rink.

It warns players with the puck to pay attention to hits from behind and it tells other players that if they hit someone in the area, the player may be seriously hurt.

“I think it’s going to prevent shoulder injuries, neck injuries, broken collar bones, anything in that area,” said Dean Lapierre, the president of the WMHA.

“Hopefully, the kids will realize not to hit anybody in that area and for the kids to realize to keep their heads up. There is a less chance for an injury if your head’s up when you go into the boards,” he said.

The line doesn’t change any rules and referees calling the same penalties. This new addition just lets players know they are approaching the wall.

Lapierre said the league’s leadership decided to go with the Look-Up Line after hearing about an orange line installed at the Stonewall Arena in Manitoba.

That line came about after a fall into the boards paralyzed 20-year-old Braden Pettinger and rocked the junior hockey community in Manitoba

Lapierre said other skating organizations using Windsor’s community rinks support the idea.

The Look-up Line is about a metre from the boards. (Windsor Minor Hockey Association)

The lines are painted at South Windsor, Forest Glade, and Adie Knox arenas this year, with more to come next season, Lapierre said.   

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Windsor Minor Hockey Association says the Look-up Line, coupled with the STOP (Safety Towards Other Players) sign worn on the backs of minor hockey sweaters, which originated in Windsor, should help reduce injuries which may result in concussions.

Colliding into boards is one of the culprits behind severe head injuries, according to the Canada Safety Council.

Developed by American

Tom Smith, an American hockey player who had to quit the game after suffering two separate spinal injuries, one in 2008 and another in 2009,developed the Look-Up Line.

Smith said he believes a warning line wouldn’t have mattered in his first spinal injury. But it could have helped prevent his second. 

“I slid into the boards and didn’t know where I was in space,” he told CBC News. “Had I seen that orange there’s a very good chance I could have made an adjustment and prevented the paralyzing accident that happened to me.”    

He came up with the idea in 2012 after a Boston Red Sox game on TV. He saw outfielders were able to prepare themselves to hit the outfield fence because they could feel the difference between the grass and the warning track.

Though a look-up line isn’t exactly the same, Smith says people intuitively see orange and think of danger. It’s designed to let any player know the boards are there — whether they are giving or taking a hit.

“At the end of the day … no one wants to put someone in a wheelchair or cause someone a serious injury,” he said.

Smith believes there are more than 100 arenas across North America outfitted with the Look Up Line.