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Looking at Potential Rule Changes

Todd Milewski of USCHO talked with Alaska athletic director Forrest Karr about some potential topics that will be discussed at the NCAA's ice hockey rules committee meeting in Indianapolis in June. The NCAA has the opportunity to make changes to the rulebook every two years, and this is one of those years.

Here's my take on some of the stuff mentioned:

The Good

Like everywhere else in hockey, hits to the head will be one of the main topics addressed, though it sounds like nobody has a really clear plan of what to do. At the very least, the options for penalties needs to be tweaked to allow officials to call 5-minute major and a game misconduct with a contact to the head penalty. As it is written right now, officials had the option of giving a 5-minute major and either a game disqualification or nothing. The option of a game misconduct would allow officials to review the play after the game and increase the penalty to a game DQ, whereas they can't decrease a DQ down to a game misconduct. That's at least a small step in the right direction, but a lot of work needs to be done on the issue.

Somebody finally took my suggestion about allowing any goal off a skate to count. A brief search of the archives here turned up four or five different goal controversies pertaining to this rule, and all of them would have been no issue whatsoever if this rule were adopted.

I really hope they adopt hybrid icing. There's maybe a little gray area, but there's also a lot of instances where the offending team would clearly reach the puck first, and it's annoying to see those called icings. They may get rid of the obtainable passes negating icing, but that was a rule so confusing and inconsistently applied that I doubt anyone will miss it.

It looks likely that they won't let teams make a change if they shoot the puck over the glass in their own end, and won't move a faceoff outside the zone when a puck goes off the crossbar and out of play. Both are minor things, but make a lot of sense.

The Bad

There was a lot of push from coaches to go to half-shields instead of full face masks, which I think is a horrible, horrible decision. The old school wisdom is that if players wear half-shields, it would make the game safer because players would have more respect and keep their sticks down more. That logic is incredibly backwards.

Even if sticks are a little higher in the NCAA, so what? Not counting concussions, which are face shield neutral, regardless of what some may argue, when was the last time you heard of a player missing a game due to a head/face related injury? The only example I can think of would be Tom Pohl, which was a freak accident where his helmet came off--and if I'm not mistaken, he hit his chin on the edge of the dasherboards, which obviously would have been uncovered with a half shield. Otherwise, it's a pretty clean record for college hockey.

Now watch former CC defenseman Jack Hillen eat an Alex Ovechkin slap shot. Or Ian Laperriere blocking a shot with his face. Or Josh Gorges taking a Mike Green shot to the face. Those have all happened since January. Hockey Night in Canada's Jeff Marek said after the Gorges incident--and this was on radio, so I'm paraphrasing--"Not to be morbid, but eventually we may see someone die on the ice from something like this." Watching those videos, he's right. It's not that hard to imagine a terrible tragedy coming from something like that. And it's not just preventable in college hockey; all they have to do is not actively do something stupid.

Everything else is pretty minor in comparison. There was talk of not allowing teams to ice the puck on the penalty kill. I don't see any specific need for a change. Powerplay percentages range from about 10% for a bad team to 20+% for a really good one, which seems about right. There's no need to make it easier to score on a powerplay. Plus, the corollary to that is that it makes the penalty for an infraction that much more severe. Each penalty would become, on average, worth about a third of a goal against, as opposed to one fifth of a goal or one tenth of a goal.Combine that with the emphasis on calling every ticket-tack obstruction call and it's a recipe for a lot of frustration. Or, to put it much simpler, is anyone really that comfortable with the officials in college hockey having that much more control over the outcome of a game? I didn't think so.

That said, it sounds like this decision may be made elsewhere in the hockey world, and if the NHL eventually adopts that rule, it may force the NCAA's hand.