The following is a press release from the Minnesota High School League and is official as of 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. It addresses three penalties that are deemed as dangerous plays in the game of hockey -- checking from behind, boarding, and head contact -- that have now all been changed from being a choice of a two-minute minor penalty to an automatic major penalty and a ten-minute misconduct. In addition, the option of a game disqualification can be assessed on the three penalties as determined by the officiating crew.
Penalties stiffened in effort to thwart unnecessary hockey hits
The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors has approved a recommendation to stiffen several penalties in hockey that become effective immediately. The goal is to continue the League's efforts to reduce and remove dangerous contact that has led to severe injuries to players.
The recommendation came from staff, the League's Hockey Advisory Committee (girls' and boys' coaches), and officials association representatives.
The penalties for three infractions of the rules have been significantly increased in an effort to thwart players from making dangerous hits on the ice.
Checking from behind
Checking from behind, which formerly called for a two-minute minor penalty plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty, will now become a five-minute major penalty plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The existing rule also states that any check from behind that is deemed "flagrant or causes the player to crash headfirst into the boards or goal frame" will continue to be a game disqualification. The disqualified player cannot re-enter that game and cannot play in the next scheduled game either.
Boarding, defined a "check, cross check, elbow, charge or trip" that sends an opponent "violently into the boards" now becomes and automatic major penalty -- five minutes -- instead of the option of either a two-minute minor penalty or five-minute major penalty. The existing rule that also states any boarding check that "causes the player to crash headfirst into the boards" may qualify for a game disqualification. The disqualified player cannot re-enter that came and cannot play in the next scheduled game either.
Contact to the head
Contact to the head also now becomes an automatic major penalty -- five minutes -- instead of the option of either a two-minute minor penalty or five-minute major penalty. The rule states, "No player shall make contact with the opposing player's head or neck area in any manner." Officials still have the option of assessing a disqualification penalty if warranted, and in that case the disqualified player cannot re-enter that game and cannot play in the next scheduled game either.
The five minute major penalties require the offending player to come out of the game and that team must play short handed until the penalty's expiration. The 10-minute misconduct penalty must also be served by the offending player, however, the team is allowed to put a different player on the ice as a substitute during those 10 minutes.
Blows to the head will now garner a 5-minute major at minimum. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
The Advisory committee met on Tues, Jan. 10 2012, at the League office. It was a regularly scheduled meeting set in June 2011. The committee members had already established contact to the head and checking from behind as ongoing areas of concern to discuss prior to the recent injuries of the two players who remain hospitalized. At the meeting the committee members immediately established a priority to address the issue of proper contact in the game.
The League's chief hockey rules clinician was also invited to attend and participated in the discussion. The boys' and girls' coaches on the committee quickly agreed that the best way to address increasing violent hits was to escalate the penalty structure and to get all parties involved to seek to change the culture of the game. The coaches need to accept the stiffer penalties and need to instruct their players the proper and legal ways of making contact with opponents. The officials need to make the calls and when the calls are made, they need to be supported by not only the coaches, but also the players and the fans.
"Hockey is a great game, and when it is played the way it should be played, it should be a safe game," said Craig Perry, League associate director who oversees hockey. "The advisory committee's recommendations and our Board's support of the action continue our efforts to protect kids on the ice, efforts that have been in place for a number of years.
"The rules book developed by the National Federation of State High School Associations has made checking from behind and hits to the head as points of emphasis since the 2004-2005 season."
The League requested and received permission from the National Federation of State High School Associations to alter the three penalties cited on an experiment basis for the remainder of the current hockey seasons. The permission was required so as to not jeopardize the League's membership on the national rules committee.
An education module is now available online that details the rules changes and illustrates both improper and proper body contact as related to the three rules cited. All coaches, officials and players have been instructed to view the education module and endorse its implementation prior to the next scheduled competition. The education module is also posted on the home page of the league website-www.MSHSL.org. Another educational module employing video is also in production and will be available within a week or so.
Good body position and separation are what is emphasized with the rule changes. The image shows the proper way to separate on the boards. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
The Minnesota State High School League, its coaches advisory committee and its registered hockey officials implore players, coaches, officials and fans to embrace this campaign to reduce some of the unnecessary and dangerous violence in today's game of hockey. The bottom line is that the players deserve a safe environment in which to play the game.
As Ken Pauly, head coach of Benilde-St. Margaret's boy's hockey team and a member of the advisory committee stated during the Jan. 10 committee meeting, "You can't tell me we can't change the culture of the game."
The Minnesota High School League took to the ice to record an educational video module for the rule changes that are now implemented. The OTSN.tv/MnHockeyhub was present as Channel 45 KSTC filmed the on ice portion. Other media outlets present included the Minneapolis StarTribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Let's Play Hockey.
The Andover Huskies boys' and girls' teams participated in the event with both coaches Mike Manney (boys) and Ben Monahan (girls) present to instruct the proper way to give and receive a check.
Along with members of the Minnesota High School League, two officials were present to communicate their perspective for the video module. The following are interviews conducted with the OTSN.tv's Pete Waggoner as the Minnesota High School League's Craig Perry, referee Bill Danielson, Manney, and Monahan shared their thoughts on the experience and the impact it will have on changing the culture of the game.