It’s a bit of a waiting game to see when hockey will be back. There’s also the uncertainty about what may be different. Around the world, leagues are balancing the need to protect players and officials with the desire to return to the ice.
There’s been talk of banning spitting on the ice, as, certainly, any bodily fluids out there would likely be a concern. So would putting something in your mouth all game long – like a whistle.
What about a whistle you don’t have to blow at all?
Fox 40 currently offers an electronic whistle. From Fox 40, whose Superforce is currently the official whistle for NHL referees and linesmen:
As one of our top selling products, the Fox 40 Electronic Whistle is continually used for both sport and safety. In regards to Ice Hockey specifically, the hand operated Fox 40 Electronic Whistle has been a great alternative to the Pea Style Whistle.
The Fox 40 Electronic Whistle offers 3 unique tones ranging from 96db up to a shrill 120 dB, each of which are easily recognized by athletes at all levels of the game.
Here’s a quick demo.
Some users have mentioned that the volume may be a but lower in comparison to traditional whistles.
The Fox 40 Super Force CMG is rated at 110 decibels. Their Electronic Whistle ranges from 96 to 120 decibels. The Acme Thunderer, another popular choice, clocks in at 122 decibels.
Hockey Quebec Considering Electronic Whistles
Hockey Quebec recently mentioned electronic whistles, for both officials and coaches, as part of their plan to return to hockey.
Any type of electronic whistle must be used as a replacement for the traditional whistle; the latter expelling tiny droplets thrown into the air.
Hockey Quebec will communicate specific regulations and instructions, such as the use of the electronic whistle, in connection with the COVID-19 to officials so that they can know and apply them strictly.
In order to inform all province officials, specific training and online explanatory videos will be prepared to ensure that the new rules are passed in accordance with the rules of play in accordance with the rules set up by public health.
Moving to electronic whistles also means the league could consider facial protection for referees and linesmen.
USA Hockey Advises on Full Face Shields
USA Hockey has floated the idea of considering face shields for players, though nothing has been determined as of yet. From USA Hockey:
As together we make our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Hockey has been asked if wearing a helmet with a full clear shield is better than a visor (half shield) or cage. In addition, many are asking about players wearing a face mask to cover their mouth/nose while practicing or in games. Below is information that we hope is helpful. There is no scientific proof that a full clear shield on a hockey helmet provides better protection against infectious diseases compared to a visor (half shield) or cage.
That said, a full clear shield is likely better than a visor (half shield) or cage:
1. Can act as a barrier in case someone in close proximity coughs or sneezes
2. May be a deterrent to decrease touch of the face (vs. cages where players stick their fingers through the cage)
3. Likely to prevent spitting on the ice/bench (should be enforced regardless)
It should be noted that a full clear shield will not prevent the inhalation of aerosolized droplets. And it is important that regardless of what kind of mask a player wears that it be cleaned thoroughly after each use.
As for face masks to cover your mouth and nose, the CDC does not currently recommend those be used during physical activity
Assuming this would apply to the players, it’s also been asked if officials would be held to the same guidelines. If full face-shields are a consideration, electronic whistles would be the only option.
Of course, electronic whistles also present an opportunity, especially at the NHL level.
Rule 31.2, a perennial favorite, covers ‘intent to blow’ the whistle:
As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown.
An electronic whistle would reduce the time needed to blow the whistle, especially since an official no longer needs to bring the whistle to his mouth to stop play. Additionally, that device can be synced up to the timekeeper’s clock to automatically stop the clock when the whistle sounds. While we’re at it, we can also sync it to the goal lights, preventing them from turning on after the whistle has sounded.
Not only is it more straightforward, but it’ll save time, too. No more winding back the fractional seconds late in a period to allow for the human delay from the timekeeper manually stopping the clock after the whistle sounds.
Maybe there’s an opportunity for improvement here after all.