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USA Hockey Rules Changes

For a sport that supposedly nobody cares about, hockey has been in the mainstream media quite a bit lately. My story on the Alaska rivalry got picked up by Deadspin. ESPN picked up the story about Brett Hextall choosing North Dakota, and two days ago, this story about USA Hockey's stiffer rules enforcement this season, made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

The main idea of the article comes from this sentence:
USA Hockey...has run into an epidemic of players cooling their skates for holding, hooking and other infractions.
Maybe I'm a bit of an English nerd, but I'm fascinated by the word choice of epidemic in that sentence. It's true that the writer could have meant the word in the sense that it is widespread, but when people think epidemic, the first thing they're likely to think of is an infectious disease. And if you read that sentence I quoted closely, you'll notice that the writer isn't saying the hooking and holding is the epidemic; it's the players going to the box that is the epidemic. What he's saying is that it's not the infraction that's the problem, it's the resulting penalty.

The transition that USA Hockey is making this year may be painful, but I think that ultimately, it will be for the best. Officials are just trying to enforce the rules as they're written, instead of letting too much go. I think it's a great idea to try and get all of the obstruction out of the game and let the players show off their skill. It may be ugly now, but it should pay huge dividends in a few years.

I understand what the article is talking about though. It mentions a scout from Northeastern traveling to St. Cloud for one of the Select Festivals and his frustration in seeing penalty after penalty called in those games. Those games were filled with penalties, and I remember hearing some USA Hockey officials talking about how some games were pretty much ruined by poor officiating. Calling more penalties means that the referees are more involved in the game, which means officials make more mistakes. If the WCHA can't find 5 good officials for any given weekend, what are the odds that a small town hockey association could round up enough for their games?

So far, there's been a lot of confusion, but I think most of these problems will be worked out once players and officials get a little more familiar with the new rules, even if it makes for some ugly hockey right now.