Report On NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee Meeting

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee reinforced its commitment to eliminating hitting from behind from the game and mapped out a strategic plan for future changes at its annual meeting, held June 5-8 in San Antonio. The committee also dealt with goals directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate, offered further protections to the goalkeeper with the crease rule and recommended that conferences check goalkeeper equipment for legality during the season.

Hitting from behind — a major topic during the season and at the coaching meetings in April — was discussed at length by the committee. The group reviewed several proposals made in response to the better enforcement of this infraction to create an intermediate penalty. The committee reviewed its rule and ultimately decided to stay with its current rule, which calls for a major penalty and game misconduct or disqualification when this infraction occurs into the boards or goal cage.

“Ultimately, this rule has started to achieve the intended result and changed player behavior,” said Enrico Blasi, chair of the committee and head coach at Miami (Ohio) University. “If we decided to lessen the penalty in this area, it would be sending a mixed message to officials and alter much of the progress we have made in this area.”

The only major change the committee made to its rules dealt with icing. Starting this season, when the attacking team attempts a pass that is deemed receivable by the official, icing will be nullified. This change, which was used successfully in the National Hockey League this season, will allow play to continue and encourage additional offensive opportunities.

The committee confirmed two clarifications it made during the season. The first clarification came in relation to rules concerning the goal crease. The committee slightly altered the wording of this rule to make it clear that goalkeepers are protected in the goal crease area.

The new wording notes that attacking players who are in the goal crease and impeding the goalkeeper from playing the position (visually, physically or otherwise). The committee also noted that officials may stop play if the goalkeeper is being impeded and conduct a faceoff outside the zone.

“First and foremost, the crease is the goalkeeper’s area,” said Blasi. “The rule change made last year achieved the intended result, but we want to be sure we maintain the protection of the goalkeeper.”

The second clarification dealt with goals scored when the puck is directed into the net off an attacking player’s skate. The committee viewed several examples and confirmed its stance that these goals are allowed.

“The hockey community has made it clear that goals scored in this way should be viewed as a skill play,” Blasi said. “The committee agrees with this stance.”

Verbiage was added, however, to clarify that the puck must be propelled first by the stick (e.g., shot or pass) to allow the goal to count.

In other actions, the committee set a future plan for discussions and its vision for the college game. At the meeting, the committee:

  • Created a mission statement;
  • Voted to utilize a two-year process for rules changes, meaning the next rules book will span the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons;
  • Approved several experimental rules for teams to use during exhibition games or in conference-only play; and
  • Formulated a list of consideration topics for possible future implementation.

    The committee thanked departing members John Harrington, St. John’s (Minnesota), Jeff Vizenor (Minnesota State) and Blasi. The group nominated Colonel Jim Knowlton, United States Military Academy, as chair of the committee.


    Rule 2-3-a, Players in Uniform. It was VOTED: “To allow 21 skaters and as many as three goalkeepers for exhibition games.” Rationale: The current rule book does not allow a team to dress more than 18 players and up to three goalkeepers. This change allows schools to play more student-athletes and provide more participation opportunities.

    Rule 3-3, Goalkeeper’s Equipment. The committee officially added the specifications to the rules book and recommended a compliance check at least one time during the season by each conference. The committee plans to work in conjunction with the championships committees to check equipment prior to NCAA championship competition.

    Rule 5, Officiating Systems. The committee voted to add the two-referee, two-linesman system to the rules book. The group believes this system should be utilized, when possible, in college play and plans to recommend one officiating system for all NCAA competition starting in 2008-09.

    Rule 6-23-a, Hitting From Behind. Add the words “in open ice” to the end of this rule. This change makes it clear that a minor for hitting from behind may only be called in the open ice. If the infraction occurs into the boards or goal cage, a major and a game misconduct or disqualification must be called.

    Rule 6-14-a, Face Mask. Altered this rule to allow a minor penalty or major at the referee’s discretion. Previously, the penalty for this rule was an automatic major penalty.

    Rule 8, Game Protocol. By mutual consent of the competing teams, the game protocol may be altered for special presentations (e.g., senior night, jersey retirement, anniversary celebrations, etc.).


    Hitting From Behind. Much as the committee’s focus on obstruction fouls changed player behavior a few years ago, dangerous hits from behind lessened considerably with last year’s focus on these penalties. The committee considered intermediate penalties (e.g., minor and misconduct, major only, game and misconduct) but ultimately decided any lesser option would send the wrong message to officials, players and coaches. At the end of the season, players most certainly had more respect for their opponents in this area and had altered the means of contact as a direct result of the committee’s focus on this penalty. Reckless checking from behind will not be allowed and the impetus remains on the player delivering the hit.

    Goal Crease. The goal crease is, first and foremost, the goalkeeper’s area. Last year’s alteration to allow attacking players in the goal crease when a goal is scored was not intended to allow interference with the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper must be allowed to play the position. Therefore, attacking players are not allowed to enter the goal crease and disrupts the goalkeeper from playing the position (e.g., screening, minor contact). Officials have the option of stopping play and conducting a neutral zone faceoff or calling an interference penalty.

    Embellishment. The committee is concerned with what seems to be an increase in players using deceptive tactics to draw penalties. While the focus on obstruction and hitting from behind may have contributed, embellishment must be penalized. When players gain and advantage and draw a penalty, they must trust officials to make the call and not embellish the penalty.


    Conferences and teams are encouraged to implement these rules experimentally in exhibitions or in conference games.

    1. When a team is shorthanded, that team is not allowed to ice the puck.

    2. When icing is called, the team that iced the puck is not allowed to change its players.


    The committee would like the hockey community to consider the following proposals and their possible affect on the game. The committee will consider making these changes starting with the 2008-09 season.

    Eliminating ties. It is the committee’s intent to develop a procedure to eliminate ties in the game, no later than the 2008-09 season. The committee will collect specific suggestions relating to this possible change (e.g., RPI, procedures, shootout, etc.).

    Officiating system. The committee intends to establish one officiating system for all levels of college hockey, starting 2008-09. To increase the options available for experimentation and discussion, the committee has added the two-referee, two-linesman system to the rules book.

    Hand passes. The committee is asking for feedback to either eliminate hand passes all together or allow them in all areas of the ice to establish consistency.

    Stick construction. The committee would like to explore the elimination of one-piece composite sticks. Rationale: These types of sticks break frequently and the committee is concerned that this creates potentially dangerous situations on the ice.


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