Visors, overtime go under microscope in rules committee meetings

The NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee begins meetings Tuesday with a packed agenda that those in charge hope will improve the college hockey game.

Every two years, the rules committee is charged with reviewing the rule book that applies to both the men’s and women’s game at the Division I and III levels. This being what most appropriately call a “rules change year” means that this week’s meetings could have significant impact on the game.

The two major rules up for evaluation are ones that have been talked about for some time: the use of full visors vs. reduced shields and overtime variations and shootouts. Both have been highly studied aspects of the game over the past few years, with much of the data for each coming from leagues such as the USHL and international hockey.

According to Ed McLaughlin, the Niagara athletic director and rules committee chair, the adoption of a three-quarter shield, similar to one that is worn by Minnesota Wild forward Dany Heatley, seems to have the support of coaches.

“The coaches, by and large, want the three-quarter visors. The student-athletes want the visors,” McLaughlin said. “And both the coaches and student-athletes want it to be only visors and not being able to wear the full shield as well.”

The one exception would be that players with face injuries would be allowed to wear the full shield while recovering.

The three-quarter visor, if adopted, will be used only in the men’s game. Women’s hockey will continue to use full face shields.

The actual visor being proposed has changed significantly since the committee examined this rule change two years ago. At that time, the proposed shield was a half shield, which covered the eyes but not the nose or cheekbones. The three-quarter shield provides more protection for the cheekbones while also reducing the ability for a stick to make contact with the eyes.

“The coaches seem to be all over the board in the different variations of overtime. There was no consensus on overtime.”

— Rules committee chair Ed McLaughlin

“The [three-quarter] shield covers a lot,” McLaughlin said. “When you have it on, getting your stick up there by your eye is nearly impossible.”

While the visors seem to have strong support, a rule that many thought might enter college hockey likely will not.

Shootouts, which have been used by the CCHA in league play for four seasons, do not have support across Division I men’s hockey. Similarly, there doesn’t seem to be significant support for playing four-on-four in overtime as the NHL does.

Because of that, the committee is looking into other solutions to reduce the number of tie games and provide winners and losers in more regular-season games.

“I was a little surprised it wasn’t more forceful for four-on-four,” McLaughlin said. “But [changing] overtime is still something we will discuss.”

One option could be the expansion of the overtime period. College hockey employs the standard five-minute overtime in the regular season, but that could be expanded to 10 or even 20 minutes in the hopes of determining more winners. Some college hockey leagues used a 20-minute overtime in the regular season in the late 1980s.

“The coaches seem to be all over the board in the different variations of overtime,” McLaughlin said. “There was no consensus on overtime.”

The rules committee agenda will also include two potential rule changes that were brought to light in this past NCAA tournament.

The committee will consider allowing goals that were scored as the defensive team dislodges the net. When Michigan State played Union in the NCAA regional tournament, an apparent Spartans goal was reviewed and disallowed when the officials determined the net, as the puck entered, was slightly raised off its pegs by a Union defender. The rule change would make goals stand in select cases when the defense causes the net to dislodge.

“We want to find ways where we can have more goals count,” said Steve Piotrowski, director of officials for the CCHA and NCAA rules editor. “The net can conceivably be on the pegs but if it just rocks up that goal, under our current rule, would be disallowed.”

Another change would be to the criteria used for instant replay, particularly when it comes to the play being offside immediately as the goal is scored. Last season, Union scored an empty-net goal from center ice in the NCAA Northeast Regional final against Massachusetts-Lowell while a Dutchmen attacker was still in the attacking zone.

Despite clear evidence on video that the play was offside, current replay criteria does not allow the official to review whether a play is onside when the goal is scored.

“We have the capabilities [to review offside plays],” NCAA director of officials Frank Cole said. “If we have video review and we have conclusive evidence and everyone sees it in the audience, why should we limit the officials as not being able to review something like that?”

Cole emphasized that this change does walk somewhat of a fine line between reviewing plays and taking the place of officials.

“We can’t officiate by video review,” Cole said. “We’re not going [to use replay] to call penalties, but in critical situations [such as the Lowell-Union game], we need to use it.”

One potential rule change that could have enormous impact concerns goals redirected off a skate. The current rule disallows all goals off skates other than those that are clearly accidental. That rule is different from the one used in the NHL and in international hockey, which allows players to redirect shots with their skates as long as there is no clear and distinct kicking motion. The proposed new rule would align NCAA hockey with the NHL.

And while the coaches supported this rule change in discussion, the committee pushed the envelope with one simple question.

“We said, ‘Guys, would you be comfortable losing a national championship game on a goal that goes off a skate?'” Piotrowski said. “Some respond and say, ‘If that’s the rule then we have to accept it.'”

Hand passes will also be discussed by the committee. According to McLaughlin, the sentiment among the coaches is to either allow hand passes in all zones or eliminate them entirely. The current rule allows for the defensive team to pass the puck with the hand in the defensive zone only, provided the pass is collected in the defensive zone as well.

“In terms of hand passes, if we change [the current rule] they want it all or nothing,” McLaughlin said.

In the last rules change two years ago, one of the highest-impact changes was the addition of hybrid icing. For the last two seasons, officials have judged icing based on whether the defensive team reaches the faceoff dot in the defensive zone before the attacking player.

According to Piotrowski, the committee is examining if the defensive player’s position should be judged at the top of the faceoff circle so as to allow a larger cushion for the linesman to blow the whistle before the players reach the end boards.

“Part of this rule is the safety aspect,” Piotrowski said, noting a major difference between hybrid icing and the NHL’s more dangerous touch icing. “A point of emphasis for the officials is making the decision much more quickly. The less time to make those decisions, the closer they get to the end boards and that’s where the dangerous situation rears its ugly head.”

The determination of what rules to review, and potentially change, comes from voting and discussion during the American Hockey Coaches Association convention in Naples, Fla., in April. Each league conducts straw polls on rules it would like changed and then presents them to the entire membership on both the men’s and women’s side.

And though the rules committee will make decisions this week as to what should be changed, nothing will be official until the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Committee meets in July.

Some rules, particularly the conversion to the three-quarter shield, will also need the blessing of an NCAA safety committee before the July meeting.

The final rule book will be in place by the end of July.


  1. I don’t understand the concern about tie games. Some of the very best regular season games that I’ve ever seen have ended in ties. I am delighted 4×4 and shootouts have been eliminated from consideration. They are faux hockey. The college OT used to be 10 minutes, and there would be nothing wrong about going back to that system. Just play OT like you do the rest of the game. It’s only right!

      • And they feel like wins if you’re supposed to lose. So what’s the problem? Are you saying you’d rather have a loss in a 10-minute overtime than a tie after a 5-minute overtime?

  2. OT should be 10 minutes of 5×5 at least. I would like to see a full 20 minute OT after a resurface for all regular season games and if it ends in a tie, then its a tie, but with more time you will see less ties overall.

    • These kids are already playing a lot of hockey. That would add to it and you will end up seeing more and more kids with injuries. I hate the idea of a tie but more time isn’t the answer.

    • I’ve loved the idea of 10 minute overtime. It’s not too long for those in favor of restricting the length of regular season games (which I completely understand), but it doubles the chance of an overtime goal. 5 minutes goes by in a hurry. That being said, I’m not sure how you would approach the 10 minute length in terms of resurfacing the ice.

  3. I played my junior hockey in the BCHL. The OT was 5 minutes of 4×4 and then 5 minutes 3×3. It may seem crazy to someone who is hearing for the first time but in the 3 years I played there might have been 4 ties in the entire league. Its really exciting and I never personally witnessed a tie. It also gives a team the chance to actually DESERVE the win rather than winning with a stupid shootout.

    • It might be better than shootout but it’s still not a “real game” situation. A shootout makes it a skill competition and 4×4 and 3×3 makes it a special teams competition.

    • 3 on 3 full time is a bit far. What happens when there’s a penalty? Once a team only has 3 skaters, the penalties are just end-to end, but you’d have to penalize a team somehow. 3-on-2?

  4. No shootouts. This is my biggest problem with regular-season NHL games. In the playoffs, overtime is played on a sudden-death basis with teams at regular 5-on-5 strength. Regular season overtime games are decided with a substantially different method of play than the 3 regulation periods. This is what happens when you have a low scoring output game like hockey and decide that all games must have a victor. Thankfully the NHL has the sense to have playoff games settled on the ice in the normal manner — I love soccer but it’s absurd to settle the World Cup final on a penalty kick shootout.

    Expand regular-season overtime to a single 10-minute period if you must, but keep ties as an outcome. I have no problem with ties, especially in a sport that has low scoring. Basketball is a fine sport from which to exclude the possibility of the tie because scoring is so frequent that it’s possible to have a short overtime period length and still have it be reasonably likely that one team scores more than the other. It’s quite rare for a basketball game to exceed three overtime periods, and three overtimes is just a bit more than one NBA quarter’s length. Baseball is a fine sport to allow to continue indefinitely because it’s not played continuously and therefore player exhaustion does not become a factor. Hockey needs a limit because it’s very physically taxing and there’s plenty of other games to be played, but changing the very nature of how the game is played just to reach a win/lose scenario is unfair to the spirit of the competition. Frankly, I wish the NHL would reinstate ties.

    • It sucks to settle the World Cup on a shootout, but scoring in soccer is so rare (and substitutions so limited) that you have to end it at some point before the entire squad collapses in exhaustion.

  5. I’d like to see tie games done away with in one way or another. If they decide to implement a shootout in NCAA hockey, I wouldn’t want it like the NHL. I don’t believe that some games should be worth 3 points while other games are worth 2. There needs to be a definitive winner for every game. Eliminating tie games would likely decrease the complexity of comparing the TUC’s for the tournament.

    To people complaining that more overtime causes more injuries- If you’re that concerned about injuries you might as well not play or let your kids play. It’s an inherent risk when playing any sport. It’s an inherent risk driving your car to work or walking down the street too. Injuries should not factor into the decision.

    Personally, I enjoy the BCHL OT. I’m just annoyed at people who say something like, “the players are playing too much hockey and I’d hate to see them injured in overtime. Oh, but I don’t want shootouts either even though there’s nearly no chance of injury in a shootout.”

    • If there are more shootout’s I’d want it in the 3 point system. (Points in general would be just for conference standings, and shootouts wouldn’t really make a difference to the tournament selection committee.) From what I gather, the CCHA system and the women’s WCHA system are the same – 3 points for a win, 0 for a loss. A tie at the end of overtime is 1 point to each team, then winning the shootout earns you a second point. I feel like this gives teams more incentive to play to win, as a loss in the shootout would be just 1/3 of a win, and a win in the shootout would be just 2/3 of a win, instead of the full 3 points. Also, shootout wins are stated as they really are – a tie, and one team won the shootout.


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