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Winter Safety

Ice skating and hockey

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Ice skating and ice hockey are popular sports.​ There are things you and your child can do to lower the risk of getting hurt while doing these activities.

Check the ice before you skate

  • Before walking or skating on ice, check that the ice is smooth and at least 15 cm (6 in.) thick.
  • If you’re having a skating party or playing games, make sure the ice is at least 20 cm (8 in.) thick.
  • Check for hazards like pebbles, rocks, and branches.
  • Check that the ice is in good shape without any bumps or melting or slushy ice.

When you're skating

  • Only skate on ice that is monitored and maintained.
  • Don’t let your child skate alone or skate anywhere that isn’t safe.
  • Always supervise your child or skate with them.

When you're playing hockey

  • Take hockey skills training (such as workshops or power skating classes) and skating lessons to learn how to stop, fall safely, and how to get up after a fall.
  • Skate with your head up to prevent an injury (especially when you’re heading towards the boards).
  • Warm up and stretch before you skate, practise, or play hockey. It’s important to cool down and stretch afterwards. Stay in shape by doing strength, flexibility, and endurance training all year.
  • Help your child learn to play hockey by the rules.
  • Bodychecking is the main cause of injuries, like concussions, in hockey. The Canadian Paediatric Society says children shouldn’t play in leagues that allow bodychecking.
  • Learn the signs of a concussion in case of a fall or crash on the ice.

Protective gear and clothing

Helmets

Wear a helmet whenever you’re skating or playing hockey. Wear one that is approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), fits right, and is in good shape. If you don’t have a hockey helmet, it’s better to wear a bike or multi-sport helmet than no helmet at all.

Mouth guards

When you play hockey, always wear a mouth guard. If you find the standard mouth guards are not comfortable, think about getting one custom-made.

Masks and padding

Wear a face mask and protective padding (such as wrist, elbow, and knee pads) for extra protection. When you play hockey, also wear shin and shoulder pads.

Skates

Get your skates a yearly tune-up to make sure they work well. Make sure the blades are sharp and have no rust. Skates must fit snugly and give firm ankle support.

Clothing

Dress warm to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Dress your child in warm layers and wear:

  • mittens instead of gloves
  • warm, dry, waterproof boots that aren’t too tight
  • a neck warmer instead of scarf
  • clothes without drawstrings
  • a hat to keep the ears covered (Children under 3 need to wear a hat as they lose heat quickly from their head.)

Thin ice

Look first

Check with local authorities (such as your city, township, or parks officials) for information on ice thickness. Obey signs on or near the ice. In spring weather, thick ice is not always safe. If you aren’t sure the ice is safe, don’t go on it.

Here are more tips to stay safe on and near ice outdoors. Don’t

  • skate on community wet ponds
  • skate where there is ice over running water
  • walk on ice on or near moving water
  • walk on ice when you are alone
  • let your child play on or near ice unless a responsible adult is watching

If the ice cracks

If the ice cracks while you are on it:

  1. Call 911 for help.
  2. Lie down on the ice.
  3. Crawl or roll back to land.

If a person falls through the ice, push or throw something they can use to get out of the water, or float on, until expert help arrives. (Remember: reach, throw, but don't go.) If you try to go on the ice to rescue someone, you can put yourself in danger.

Teach your child to call for help loudly and clearly if they’re in trouble or they see someone else in trouble on the ice.

Current as of: September 17, 2021

Author: Injury Prevention, Alberta Health Services