School Administrators of Ice Hockey programs are reminded that NFHS Rule 6-7-2 for Checking from Behind has been given a more severe PENALTY for the 2012-13 school year. The rule, in and of itself, has not changed. It continues to indicate the following:
"Hitting from behind into the boards or goal frame is a flagrant violation." The penalty for violation of this rule is now simply GAME DISQUALIFICATION. In previous years, officials were provided other options in the penalties they assessed.
In addition, a "Note" has now been added that reads as follows: "The rules committee reminds coaches and players that the responsibility in this rule remains with the player approaching an opponent along the boards. While players turning to draw penalties is a concern, the positive change in behavior the committee observed outweighs this issue. Any penalty in relation to this rule along the boards or into the goal frame must be a game disqualification."
The tightening of the penalty language of this rule are resulting in more Game Disqualification penalties than in previous years. However, this signals that ice hockey officials are calling this penalty for the prevention of injuries, many catastrophic, and the well-being of high school ice hockey players. A cultural change in high school ice hockey has been requested from State Associations, coaches, officials, parents and spectators regarding checking from behind following a catastrophic injury in a JV hockey game in Minnesota last year. Especially for checks to the back in close proximity to the boards.
The growing number of Game Disqualification penalties has increased the risk of a team receiving three Game Disqualification penalties during the regular season and consequently being removed from the WIAA Tournament series per WIAA Ice Hockey Tournament Procedures. The three Game Disqualification penalty rule remains in effect and will be enforced should a WIAA Ice Hockey varsity team be assessed three Game Disqualification penalties for any violation of NFHS rules. Checking from Behind is a safety regulation that has a high degree of injury risk to the player being checked. Players that are checked in the back have no control of themselves once the contact occurs rendering them virtually helpless as they accelerate forward, often times head first into the side boards.
School administrators of Ice Hockey programs are reminded of the actions they can take to prevent Checking from Behind penalties from being assessed to their players:
- Plan regular visits to hockey practices.
- Ask to view checking/angling drills being taught.
- Make certain checking drills to separate players from the puck are not being taught.
- Make certain attacking players in drills are in control of themselves prior to making contact.
- Ask coaches about the use of the "hug" technique to grab players rather than check an opponent.
Coaches can also do take the steps below to address Checking from Behind with their players:
- Daily remind your hockey players to eliminate checking from behind.
- Prior to checking or contact drills, emphasize proper checking and contact technique.
- Before every game and every period remind your team to be aware of hitting from behind situations and to stay away from those situations.
- Be grateful when officials enforce the rules that make the game safer for all involved.
Officials can be reminded to do the following:
- In their pre-game meetings with captains and coaches emphasize appropriate contact and checking.
- Prior to each period talk to the captains or coaches to again remind them of the points of emphasis.
- When there are checks from behind do not hesitate to make the call--officials are protecting all players involved.
- Penalize players to the fullest extent of the penalty whenever a player goes head first into the boards and/or goal.
Players have responsibilities as well:
- They need to remember what coaches and officials have taught them--stay away from checking from behind situations.
- Remind each other to keep it clean and hit the brakes when they see the numbers on the back of the jersey.
- Maintain body control as they approach their opponent.
- Don't allow them to be goons--use the "hug" technique rather than a check.
Through the efforts of all involved, we can prevent injuries, especially catastrophic injuries, from occurring in high school ice hockey. Please do everything you can to provide awareness to hockey players in your program. Together we can stop these checking from behind penalties and the injuries that result from taking place.