College Hockey:
Overtime, visors among topics for rules committee in Naples meetings

Officials will have a new rule book for the 2014-15 season (photo: Melissa Wade).

Finding additional options for settling regular season ties, expansion of video replay and eliminating the majority of the neutral zone faceoff locations are among the topics that will be on the table this week for the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee.

The group will meet with men’s and women’s coaches at the Division I and Division III levels as part of the American Hockey Coaches Association annual meetings in Naples, Fla.

The meetings will help the rules committee make recommendations to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel this June as it looks to make changes to the rule book that is used across college hockey. Rules changes are made every two years, and this offseason is what’s considered a “rule change year.”

Another major item on the docket will be the use of three-quarter visors as opposed to the current full face shields, similar to what is used in the United States Hockey League.

The visors were discussed as an option to the players two years ago, the last cycle of rules changes. At that time, the rules committee decided to table the issue to obtain more data related to injures suffered by players using the three-quarters visor.

“What we did was determine we did not have enough good, solid information at the time two years ago,” said Ty Halpin, associate director of playing rules administration for the NCAA and the NCAA’s liaison to the ice hockey rules committee. “We worked hard to get the USHL’s data to correlate to ours. We’ll see if there are any trends that will help the rationale and the discussion.

“We know the men’s coaches feel like there is almost unanimous support for [three-quarters visors].”

The issue at hand is the potential for increase for certain injuries, particularly dental injuries. But the feeling among coaches and administrators on the hockey side is that a reduced-sized face shield will make the players more responsible with their sticks as well in dangerous hits to the head, thus possibly reducing the number of concussions in the game.

Proponents have to develop a strong enough argument to convince the decision-makers at the NCAA, the overwhelming majority of whom are not intimately familiar with ice hockey and the game’s injuries. That poses a challenge that could slow down the process of implementing the rule but, despite the slow track, shouldn’t be perceived as threatening to kill the potential for the reduced shield.

“Two years ago, we laid out the process we’re going to follow over the next two seasons and then have this [rules] meeting in June [of 2014],” Halpin said. “Hopefully we will have something where we can come to a decision [on the future of this rule]. The decision may be we need another year of data.

“This is not the end of the road for this discussion.”

Among other rules that will be discussed with the coaches in Naples:

Overtime and shootouts

In the desire to create a winner and loser in each contest, the committee will explore various options on overtimes.

Those options include the use of a four-on-four situation similar to the NHL, expanding the length of the overtime and mandating shootouts — used currently in the Big Ten and NCHC on the Division I men’s side — to all leagues.

Expansion of video review

As arenas around college hockey continue to improve their video equipment and review capabilities, there will be discussion on expanding the use of video review.

In addition to potential use to review offsides and hand pass calls on plays that result in goals, there will be a proposal to allow officials to review major penalties before adding a game misconduct or game disqualification penalty. It’s similar to NCAA basketball, where officials use replay when assessing flagrant fouls.

“The idea is similar to basketball in that if you have any video that is available to you that can definitively show that something was incorrect and you can fix it, we should use whatever means that are available,” said Steve Piotrowski, supervisor of officials for the Big Ten and the NCAA rules secretary.

There also will be discussion on whether video review can be used to award a penalty shot (on a hand pass in the crease, for instance) or an automatic goal on reviewable plays.

Moving all neutral zone faceoffs to center ice

Neutral zone faceoffs that occur right outside the blue line might not give much room to create momentum off the draw, so there will be a proposal to move all neutral zone faceoffs to the center circle.

“The talk is to move all neutral zone faceoffs to center ice to allow more offense to be created off of it,” Halpin said. “It also keeps the wingers back to their proper spot.”

Automatic suspensions for end-of-game majors

The committee will discuss assessing an automatic one-game suspension to players who are assessed major penalties with less than five minutes remaining in a game.

According to Halpin, several conference commissioners proposed this concept to reduce or eliminate players intentionally taking late-game major penalties with the understanding that they may not have to serve the entire penalty.

In the proposed rule, if a penalty occurs in the final five minutes and the game does not go to overtime, the offending player would automatically be suspended for the next game. If the game goes to overtime and the penalty can be served in its entirety, there would be no suspension.

“This is something that really picked up steam [in discussions at the Frozen Four] in Philadelphia,” said Halpin. “The conference supervisors [of officials] and some of the commissioners feel like we need a little bit more teeth to not force them to go through the [supplemental discipline] process.”

Penalties for teams intentionally delaying the game on whistles where personnel cannot be changed

In an effort to reduce stalling tactics, the committee will look to clarify wording related to delaying the game on icings, hand passes, defensive team knocking the net off and shooting the puck from the defensive zone directly out of play, all plays after which the offending team cannot change its players.

The clarification would assess a minor penalty for delay of game to any team that either delays lining up for the ensuing faceoff or tries to “sneak” players on and off the ice as the whistle blows.

Further clarification of hand passes

Following the rule change in the previous cycle that prohibited hand passes in the defensive zone, the committee wants to further clarify what constitutes a hand pass to include wording that requires the referee to determine intent when calling a violation.

“We feel like there are still too many whistles when there are [unintentional] deflections off a glove,” said Piotrowski. “We want to focus on looking at the rule again and make sure it’s where we want it to be. We want to reduce whistles. That’s really our point there.”

Prohibiting players from leaving feet to block shots

Some believe that shot blocking is a skill but others feel that defensive players leaving their feet to block a shot is lowering offense in the game at a time where goals are already at a premium.

The committee will look at whether there are ways to police this to eliminate players diving to block shots.

“I wouldn’t say there is a huge amount of support for a penalty there, but we’re at least going to talk about it,” said Halpin.

Increasing space between players on faceoffs

Hoping to reduce the amount of congestion on faceoffs, the committee will discuss increasing the room between the on-ice markings that separate the two centers as well as the wingers at the faceoff circles.

“The objective would be to move those marks a little further apart so the pre-whistle contact isn’t [as prevalent] as it is now,” said Piotrowski.

Standardizing depth on nets

With the NHL moving to a shallower net this season that allows players to use more skills on wraparound and behind-the-net plays, NCAA hockey has, to date, allowed games played at NHL venues to use that level’s nets.

Games at Boston’s TD Garden used the NHL-style nets. NCAA tournament games, including the Frozen Four played at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, did not.

There will be discussion on standardizing the nets across all NCAA buildings.

“There is a lot of discussions of the positivity [the shallow nets] create,” said Piotrowski. “It allows an attacking player to come around either on a wraparound or to make an offensive play in the goal mouth.”

But Piotrowski cautioned that the cost involved for each team to purchase new goals would prevent this from happening overnight.

“You have to give teams time to ramp up from a budgetary perspective,” he said.

After six to seven hours of meetings at the AHCA convention, the rules committee will take the feedback it receives and formulate recommendations for rules changes.

On June 2-4, the committee will meet with the respective men’s and women’s ice hockey committees for Divisions I and III as well as the NCAA Championship Committee in Indianapolis to present the recommendations.

Mike Murphy, vice president of hockey operations for the National Hockey League, is expected to be part of the committee meetings in Indianapolis.

Those rules that are adopted will then be put out for comment to all coaches before the 2014-16 rule book is finalized in early July.

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  • JubJub

    How about eliminate shootouts? I know what a tie means. Two teams played a tough, even match. I do not know what a shootout win means. All shootouts did was complicate standings with a confusing W-L-T-SOW record. In the NHL, all shootouts did was replace ties with OT. The NHL system also gives a deceptive boost in number of wins. I want to see guys like Jerry York actually win games playing 5-on-5 hockey and not with one-on-one, spinorama trick shots.

  • goldy

    I think that instead of extra innings they should do a homerun derby to decide a winner and instead of overtime in basketball they should have a three point contest. That’s about the same thing isn’t?

    • reardensteel

      I like where you’re going with this!
      Every sport can have a related-but-ultimately-meaningless contest to decide games that overrun the advertising budgets of the sponsors, er, I mean, used to be called ties or go on until one side won.

      Hockey could have a Mike-Legg-Impersonation contest.
      In wrestling, there could be a push-up contest.
      Football could have a longest-fieldgoal competition.
      Water polo could give the win to the last player to come up for air.

      This is great!

    • TVClemson

      I’d rather have a speed skating competition. Red line to red line with each team’s fastest player. Or how about that contest you see during intermissions where the puck is in on one end and you have to shoot it past a card board cut-out at the other end? Or better yet put a player from each team in those bubbles and have them race across the ice…mascots allowed push too!

  • bronxbomberz41

    Not really a fan of the shoot-out. Yes, the olympics hockey shoot-out in that tourney was kind of exciting, but it feel its the equivalent of saying, “OK after a super short OT, lets decide baseball games with Home Run Derbies and Basketball Games with a 3-pt contest.” I’d rather see something like a 4-on-4, 10 minute OT period. Give the teams a little more time to score a goal.

    • rampantlion

      Good post–I agree.

  • Dr. Robert

    Visors aren’t, in and of themselves, a bad thing, but it just seems like a bad idea for college kids to be at risk for the mouth/teeth/dental injuries that can come from wearing one. Plus, it would seem that universities would be concerned about greater liability and insurance issues in that regard. And if they really think players will be “more responsible with their sticks as well in dangerous hits to the head”, then they have a heckuva lot more faith in 18-22 year olds than I do.

    • Steven

      I agree Robert. Watching the NHL playoffs there is a high stick to the mouth drawing blood at least twice per period. WHY do they want this so badly??

      • Jimmy Connelly

        In the conversations I have had covering this issue for almost a decade now, most of the coaches feel that with the full shield players are much more reckless. They feel this increases head injuries and that switching to a 3/4 shield would make players more aware and play a bit more responsible. There is a significant amount of data that needs to be looked at from the past two seasons in the USHL. I think that data compared against college data will guide the decisions that are made. I’m not taking any side here, just want to provide a little more of the background.

        • Dr. Robert

          Jim, I’ve heard that argument, and while it seems to make sense on the surface, on closer inspection it just seems like too much of a straw man. I’m interested to know what type of head injuries are they looking at, specifically? I’m not aware of a concussion epidemic in college hockey, and any recklessness with the stick is mitigated by the full shield/cage anyway.
          I could easily see the move as something encouraged by the NHL to teach kids to be more careful with the stick, etc., but if that’s the case it’s still a flawed argument because the overwhelming majority of college hockey players aren’t going pro. That makes it an awfully large risk to be taken on by kids that won’t see the benefit.
          I realize there is truly a lot of data to look at, but again, it would be illuminating to know exactly what is being studied.

        • wearendhockey

          You better start with these kids when they are 6 or 8 or 10 then. Not when they are 18 or 20 or 22. And why don’t we get rid of all facial protection then? If getting rid of complete coverage of the face will make players a little more responsible, then getting rid of it all will have an even greater effect. Keep the helmets to protect against catastrophic injuries and get rid of anything else. No one will die if they lose a mouthful aof teeth or are blinded by a puck. Of course that argument is just silly, but so is the idea that after 30 plus years of college players having their faces covered and all of these kids spending a good portion of their youth playing that way, by the time they get to college they won’t suddenly become more careful with sticks and hits.

  • John Terry

    I know I’m in the minority here, and maybe I’m a product of the “instant gratification” generation, but I despise ties. IMO you watch a game to see a winner or loser. Ties are probably the worst thing to attract casual fans, and while most die-hards think that compromises the integrity of the game, I think it’s good for the sport. Ideally, they could play all night until there’s a winner like in the playoffs, but that’s obviously unrealistic.

    • Powers

      Who the hell would rather see a loss than a tie?

      • wearendhockey

        I know in one particular game in 2008 I wanted a loss over a tie. Pairwise magic being the reason. A win would have been OK too, but a loss meant ND went to the NCAAs and a tie meant they didn’t.

      • John Terry

        I would rather see my team lose than tie

    • wearendhockey

      So just play OTs until you have a winner. 10 minutes of 4-4 then 10 minutes of 3-3. Real hockey is sometimes played just like that. Real hockey is not conducted by shootouts where no other player on the ice has the OK to stop the skater besides a goalie.

      • reardensteel

        The problem is not OT itself, but the way it’s done.
        I don’t even think 4v4 is totally necessary, but they should definitely play until someone wins.
        Eventually (and usually sooner than later) the players get tired, someone makes a critical mistake, and a goal is scored.
        The five-minute OT is not enough, resulting in too many ties.

        • bronxbomberz41

          4v4 may not be entirely necessary, but it does add a bit more excitement and an element of more wide-open play. I think it’s pretty entertaining to watch in small amounts.

  • A Shot and a Goal

    While I agree that goals are at a premium in college hockey I do not think low scoring games, in and of themselves, are less entertaining than high scoring games. To that end I do not want to see players prohibited from leaving their feet to block a shot. Timing, courage and good defensive positioning are all elements which are part of being effective in blocking shots. If a player leaves his feet to block a shot an adroit offensive puck-handler can wait until the defensive player has committed himself and then skate around the defender for what may be an uncontested shot. By no means do I favor instituting a penalty for leaving your feet to block a shot.

    • William Blake

      Come on, that 2-1 MN vs UND FF game was sooo boring…

      • dking

        or how about the UND vs Ferris game was that sooo boring

  • Powers

    WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. TIES?? Ties are the natural and perfectly acceptable result when two evenly matched teams both play well (or both play poorly). If the intent of playing these games is to determine which team performed the best against its conference-mates, via the use of points awarded for wins and ties, then forcing a win-or-lose result when the teams were evenly matched skews the results. There’s nothing wrong with a tie, and both teams getting a point, if both teams deserve a point!

    And am I the only one not seeing this scoring deficit that the rules committee has seemed so worked up about the last few seasons? My team played its first scoreless tie EVER last season. This isn’t soccer; there are plenty of goals. Heck the Hobey winner this season had how many points?

  • reardensteel

    Prohibiting players from leaving their feet to block a shot is ludicrous. Blocking shots is part of the game; it’s a skill. There’s nothing unfair or cheap or unsporting about it.

    Who the heck can point to diving blocks as the root cause of a dearth of goals in college hockey? Why not say that defenders may not intentionally touch the puck with their skates? Or require them to have both hands on the stick at all times?

    We could make up any silly restriction to place on the defenders that would surely increase the number of goals scored.
    But that wouldn’t make the game better.

    What is lame is how gigantic the goaltender’s pads are.
    If they made the leg pads and arm pad a few inches narrower, there would be more goals, without affecting play in a contrived, arbitrary way.

    • dking

      Have to agree on the goaltender’s pads, they are so large these days and when you get the larger goalies there is very little space to get the puck in the goal.

    • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com/ Goon’s ND Redneck

      I think it’s ludicrous and moronic…. This is a bad rule to consider.

  • tape

    NO SHOOTOUTS! ugh. just no. shootouts stink.

  • nodak651

    Need a delay of game penalty for intentionally laying on the puck! So annoying…

  • aries

    A discouraging trend of late (not just isolated to college hockey) is a move to attract the “casual” fan. This is the type of fan that doesn’t know what the Pairwise is, couldn’t name half the teams from “their” team’s conference, and might not understand icing, offsides, etc.

    Shootouts are only in place to attract this type of fan. And while I understand the desire to “grow the game,” you might be doing so at the cost of losing your die-hard fans. Most diehard hockey people that I know Hate shootouts. Not “kinda sorta don’t like them” or “meh, I could take them or leave them.” Rather, it’s an intense hatred of shootouts.

    I get wanting to increase goal-scoring, and though I really don’t think that’s really needed, what you can do is reduce the max size of goalie pads. Goalies today look like the Michelin Man compared to 10-15 years ago. Ultimately it comes down to skill with goalies, of course, but it is getting a little ridiculous.

    And to the guy who said he’d rather see his team lose than tie, Wow. I…just don’t have the words.

    • bronxbomberz41

      I don’t disparage wanting to attract more casual fans. I don’t think you have to know what the PairWise is to enjoy games. I think they want to make them exciting. If you go to a lot of college hockey games, one thing you’ll notice is a TON of kids (middle school and younger). Its a much cheaper way to get to enjoy some hockey with them than shelling out for an NHL game. The thing is though, kids are easily distracted (ever try to bring a young kid to a sports event? they don’t care about it most of the time). Younger kids may not like or even understand, the nuances of a tied game until they get older.

      I think its wrongheaded for “hardcore” fans to be upset about wanting to grow the fan base. You see the same kinds of things in a lot of other places. the basic argument is “You’re changing the thing I love, into something that I won’t love as much, you’re trying to bring in more fans (and more money) at my expense!” I get it, it sucks. But you see the same kinds of arguments around “hardcore” gamers crapping on Nintendo Wii (or Xbox One for that matter), and with the “true” red sox fans, who “suffered” for 87 years crapping on the “pink hats” that only started liking the team in 2004 (and now attempting to cater to those fans). Ultimately, the decisions makers don’t care all that much, because their cost-benefit analysis tells them its better to bring in more people than to cater to the hardcore few.

  • ChuckGandCrew

    I think they should ensure the current video system is working properly before expanding it. I’m ok with a longer (10 min?) OT, or even a 4 on 4, but please don’t implement that stupid skills competition.

    The blocked shots rule is about the most idiotic thing I’ve heard for some time now.

  • model94

    positivity. sigh.

  • swedishchef

    Please, no shootouts. You are awarding teams extra points for not actually winning the game. If you absolutely must have a winner, like in the Beanpot or Ice Breaker Tournament, have the teams continue to play 5 on 5. I feel that players don’t want to win or lose a tournement based on a shootout.

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