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Publish date: Jun 21, 2011

Ice hockey panel clarifies contact rules

Committee adds guidance to help officials enforce current restrictions

By Ty Halpin
NCAA.org

The NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee reviewed its current rules and provided additional guidance on its stringent rules regarding dangerous contact at its annual meeting June 8-10. As part of the NCAA’s two-year cycle for playing rules changes, the 2011-12 season will not see any new rules.

The committee did approve several items of guidance for officials to build on the successful implementation of its rules for contact to the head.

“Progress was certainly made this season,” said Ed McLaughlin, athletics director at Niagara University and chair of the committee. “We are adding some additional guidance to support what is already in our rules in the hope that players, coaches and officials can better understand expectations with this rule.”

In some cases, officials were hesitant to enforce the contact to the head because they were unsure if a player had clearly “targeted” an opponent. The committee reinforced that targeting is not a prerequisite for this rule to be used.

Added to the examples of the type of play the committee hopes to remove are players who are reckless, players who are about to receive a pass and direct contact to the head or neck area from any direction. This additional guidance joins several other bullet points already printed in the rules book.

The committee also points the hockey community to language that already appears in the rules book: “A player delivering a check to an unsuspecting and vulnerable player puts themselves in jeopardy of being penalized under this rule.”

“We believe our rule is the most robust and aggressive in ice hockey,” McLaughlin said. “What we saw this year was a good start. We’re trying to take any doubt out of this call and help officials who have only one game-speed view of a play to determine how to officiate this play. We realize this is a big penalty and a serious one, but this approach has worked with hitting from behind and we believe it will work here to adjust player behavior.”

Embellishment/diving

In addition to the contact to the head and general emphasis on player safety, the committee received feedback from the coaching community that embellishment/diving seems to be a growing issue. The committee voted to make this a point of emphasis for the upcoming season and plans to include several video examples during preseason clinics.

“Diving and embellishment erode the integrity of our game and must be eliminated,” McLaughlin said. “Trying to deceive officials is unethical and unsporting. This has to be a collaborative effort to make progress.”

The committee decided to provide guidance regarding obstruction along the boards, where the defensive tactic of pressing and releasing an opponent should be allowed, but impeding is not. Again, additional video examples will be used to encourage consistent application of these rules.

Finally, the group points attention again to rules that deal with facewashing, which typically occurs after a stoppage in play. Continued and stringent enforcement of these rules is needed to improve the image of the game.

In other committee action, it was noted that exhibition games currently limit the number of student-athletes that may dress. After some clarification of the committee’s responsibility here, it has been proposed to remove the restriction on the number of players that may dress for exhibition games, pending approval from the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on a July conference call.

Other highlights

Several items of consideration for the next rules cycle were discussed and will be shared directly with the membership. They are:

  • Overtime. The committee is strongly considering removing a player from each team during regular-season overtime competition (4-on-4) and is also evaluating additional options (such as longer overtime periods). The committee will continue to allow the use of shootouts by conference policy or mutual consent of the competing teams, but support for the rules committee mandating a shootout to decide contests is limited.
  • Awarding goals – net dislodged by defensive team. In many cases, the goal cage is knocked off – often unintentionally – by the defending team right before a goal is scored. Current rules do not allow an official to award a goal unless it is obvious and imminent and an egregious act occurs by the defensive team. The committee believes there are some goals that should count in these situations and plans to adjust these rules accordingly.
  • Use of visors in men’s ice hockey. The members of the committee who represent men’s ice hockey have been asked by the coaches association to investigate the potential for voluntary use of partial face shields in NCAA hockey. A subcommittee was formed to work with the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport to research the matter. In many cases, NCAA men’s ice hockey student-athletes have participated in developmental leagues where partial protection is allowed before starting NCAA careers. The subcommittee plans to follow up at several points in the coming year with its findings, and to consider the same as appropriate going forward.
  • Use of video on the bench. In recent seasons, the use of video at the bench during live play has become more prevalent. In many NCAA sports, including football, the use of such video is strictly prohibited. The committee is not necessarily considering this approach, but it does believe some limits need to be placed on the use of video.
  • Hand passes. The committee discussed the options of allowing a hand pass in all three zones (offensive, neutral and defensive) along with the possibility of disallowing hand passes in any zone. While the committee does not have a strong opinion to change the rule in either direction, the issue deserves more discussion as a potential increase to scoring and eliminating whistles. As it currently stands, this rule provides the defensive team an advantage.
  • Goal judges. Current rules require that goal judges be used in NCAA games. With the increasing use of video replay during contests, the committee believes that this rule should be optional in the future and that conferences/institutions may determine if goal judges need to be used.
  • Teamwork in officiating. In some cases, officials may instinctively signal for a penalty based on the reactions of players and sightlines of the official. Officials have been encouraged to use all information available before making the final determination on calls, and this should continue. The committee would like to find ways to help officials to properly make determinations and potentially alter on-ice calls to enhance the fairness of the game.