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Rules Enforcement Update - Head Contact and illegal checks

2011-12-31

The MSHL has taken steps to increase the safety of our student-athletes by clearly enforcing USA Hockey Rule 620. (REVISED)

The MSHL has noticed an increased incidence of concussion and concussion-like injuries this season.  Whether the increase is due to the increased awareness of head injuries by parents, players, coaches, and team personnel, or an increase in head contact, cannot be discerned at this time.  However, the MSHL Board of Directors and our coaches want to make the environment as safe as possible for our players while still keeping the best parts ice hockey that truly make it the fastest game on earth.  

Here is what USA Hockey says about body checking:
 
• The purpose of a body check is to separate the opponent from the puck.
• Only the trunk (hips to shoulders) of the body shall be used to deliver a body check.
• The check must be delivered to the trunk (hips to shoulders) and directly from in front or the side of the opponent.
• Players who use their physical skills and/or anticipation and have a positional advantage shall not lose that advantage provided they use their body to check the opponent within the rules.
• Players will be held accountable for acts of an intimidating or dangerous nature.
 
First, please look at these two videos.   The first is by USA Hockey and the second is by the NCAA.   In the NCAA video, move the slider ahead to the 10:15 mark.

If you look at the plays that were highlighted in the NCAA video, the penalties all were delivered with the stick off the ice and the hands up.  In some, the player "launched" himself into his opponent.  

If you keep your stick on the ice and your hands down when delivering a body check, you will not run afoul of the head contact rule.

USA Hockey Rule 620 Head Contact:
(a) A minor or major penalty shall be assessed to any player who contacts an opponent in the head, face or neck, including with the stick or any part of the player’s body or equipment.
(b) A major plus a game misconduct penalty shall be assessed to any player who injures an opponent as a result of head contact or who intentionally or recklessly contacts an opponent in the head, face of neck.
(c) A match penalty for attempt to injure or deliberate injury to an opponent may also be assessed for head contact.

Beginning on January 1, 2012, the referees have been instructed that any contact to the head, face or neck area shall be called, whether it is deliberate or accidental.  The penalty(ies) imposed shall be consistent with Rule 620.

Further, any player who leaves his feet and delivers a check to the head, face, or neck area of an opponent must be penalized with at least major penalty.  Depending on the degree of impact and the defenselessness of the opponent, a major + game misconduct penalty or a match penalty may be imposed.

Here is a video from Minnesota Hockey.  Look @ the hit @ around the 1:52 mark.  What was the purpose of the check?  The puck carrier may have been eliminated in a spectacular way, but the white team still had posession and numbers.

What USA Hockey is trying to get across is that body checking is a tool to gain possession of the puck, not to intimidate or inflict damage to your opponent. So with that in mind, that hit @ 1:52 is *fundamentally* wrong, not *legally* wrong.

BTW, the drills are great too!!

Players are cautioned to keep their hands and stick down when delivering a body check.  If you extend your hands and make contact with your opponent's head, face, or neck, you will be penalized.  If, at any time, your stick makes contact with your opponent's head, face or neck area, you will be penalized.

Body checking is still legal -- look at this video.  But when you are attempting to separate the head from the opponent, rather than the puck, you will be penalized.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Joseph M. LaCour
Executive Director
MSHL




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