Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Losing An Innovator

His name isn't going to be the catalyst to a flood of memories of what he did for the game, but the game of hockey does owe Kevin Stubbington some major thanks for the work he did in and around the game. Kevin, as seen to the left, will be best remembered as the man who designed the stop sign patch and who lobbied for it to be placed on the backs of all minor hockey jerseys to prevent players from being checked from behind at the grassroots level. You might be asking why I am speaking like Kevin is no longer involved in hockey. I am sad to report that Mr. Stubbington passed away today at the age of 64 due to complications from shingles and pneumonia.

Beyond being the stop sign innovator, the former Windsor Minor Hockey Association member's idea led directly to the S.T.O.P. program or "Safety Towards Other Players" program which the OMHA adopted to raise awareness of the dangers of checking from behind. The message in S.T.O.P. and the stop sign patch soon were mandatory for all Minor Hockey Associations throughout Canada.

"At first when he brought it to the board we were kind of skeptical, 'How's that going to work? A stop sign on a jersey?' And then he brought all the documentation, the reasoning for it and we said 'Hey, let's try it,'" Dean Lapierre, Mr. Stubbington's long-time friend, told CBC News. "He wasn't looking to make a profit, he just wanted the word to get out there. The big part was when you saw the Olympic teams during their tryouts have them on the back of their jerseys for Team Canada. Then you knew it really hit it big."

What might have put an exclamation point on the stop sign campaign was the Dr. Tom Pashby Sports Safety Award that was awarded to Mr. Stubbington in 2007. The award is given to Canadians who "have made a significant contribution to prevent catastrophic injuries in sports and recreational activities." With every minor hockey player across Canada wearing the patch, the number of injuries seen from checks from behind has decreased. They haven't been eliminated entirely, but the game is much safer at the grassroots level thanks to Mr. Stubbington's simple innovation.

When he wasn't working in making hockey safer, Mr. Stubbington was a security guard at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant. He also coached hockey teams in Windsor and was a member of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association. Needless to say, his passion was hockey and the S.T.O.P. program was developed in 1996. Since 1999, over 400,000 patches have been distributed across the world as a reminder of player safety and respect.

"The OMHA caught wind of it and before you know it, you see them everywhere across North America and other parts of the world," Lapierre said to the CBC. Indeed, they are used by a vast number of hockey associations across North America, and have been seen in Europe.

Personally, I respect and applaud the innovation that Mr. Stubbington created. Checking from behind is dangerous on a number of levels as there's a risk to not only the necks and spines of players who are driven into the board, but a risk of concussions as well as the head is usually the first point of contact against the boards in a hit from behind. The fact that Mr. Stubbington came up with this made-in-Canada solution to help reduce the number of serious injuries is something we all should be proud of and should give thanks to his idea.

We lost a good man in Kevin Stubbington today. Remember his name every time you see a stop sign on a minor hockey jersey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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