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Revisiting Hits From Behind

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Three years ago, the NCAA decided to put the checking from behind penalty at the top of their rotating rule book. The first half of that next season was a disaster, with every borderline hit being given an unbending 5-minute major penalty and game misconduct. Games were ruined, teeth were gnashed, and eventually, things pretty much went back to normal after about half of a season.

For whatever reason, that rule has been back in the news a lot in recent weeks in the WCHA, and some of the same issues people had with it in the past are coming back again. There were two instances of particular interest this past weekend. On Saturday night, Alaska-Anchorage's Mat Robinson was given a checking from behind major, which Dave Shyiak wasn't happy with, and most agreed was questionable at best, and on Friday night, Minnesota State's Trevor Bruess got a 2-minute boarding penalty, which almost certainly should have been given a CFB major.(Bruess was busy last weekend as far as officiating controversies. He also had a goal disallowed thanks to the NCAA's confusing rules regarding deflecting the puck into the net. The officials got the call right as the rules are written--No deflecting the puck into the net with your foot, unless it deflects in off your foot--but the situation would have been a million times simpler if they just deleted that whole section out of the rulebook. Why keep the phrase "when in doubt" in the rulebook, when you can just as easily remove all doubt?)

Therein lies the problem with this rule. The 5-minute major and game misconduct is too severe, and the simple 2-minute penalty is too light for about 90% of these situations. I don't think either player was intentionally, or maliciously putting the other player into the boards from behind, but at the same time, a potentially dangerous situation arose from both. It would seem the most logical resolution would be giving the officials more options when it came to calling checking from behind penalties.

Three years ago, I, like a lot of other people, were strongly in favor of adding a 2-minute penalty with a 10-minute misconduct for more borderline checking from behind calls. The possibility was even discussed by the NCAA Rules Committee, but was eventually shot down for fear of appearing soft on checks from behind. Maybe now is the time, with the issue being a little less politicized, to review this possibility and make things a little easier on the officials.