2020-21 Ice Hockey NFHS Rules Considerations
In support of the Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities, the NFHS Ice Hockey Rules Committee offers this document for state associations to consider whether any possible rules could be altered for the 2020-21 season. The considerations outlined in this document are meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment.
*Ice arenas are most commonly privately-owned facilities. Be sure to know and follow the policies and procedures of the facility prior to practice or a contest.
- 1. Ice Hockey Rules Considerations o Players’ Benches (1-9-1) Maintain social distancing as much as possible when on the bench.
- Limit bench personal to observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater.
- o Penalty Benches (1-10-1) Limit to essential personnel and maintain social distancing from personnel and participating players.
- o Team Captains (2-2-1, 2-2-4, and 2-2-5) Captains need to maintain social distancing when talking or conferring with a referee.
- Maintain social distance during the pre-game meeting with captains and head coaches.
- o Protective Equipment Face masks (3-4-2) - Cloth face coverings are permissible.
- Face masks (3-4-2) - Plastic shields covering the entire face (unless integrated into the face mask, attached on the inside of the face mask, and clear without the presence of any tint) shall not be allowed during the contest.
- Each state association may adopt other playing/administrative rules for ice hockey for the 2020-21 season that would decrease exposure to respiratory droplets and COVID-19.
- o Tooth and mouth protectors (3-4-4) - State associations should develop statements instructing athletes to refrain from the removal of mouthguards while on the playing rink. If mouthguards are removed on the sidelines or bench area, the athlete should use hand sanitizer each time after touching the mouthguard.
- o State Association Adoptions
- 2. Considerations for Officials o On-Ice Officials Uniform and Equipment Electronic whistles are permissible (supplies are limited). • Choose a whistle whose tone will carry outside.
- • Fox 40 Mini -
- • Fox 40 Unisex Electronic - 3 tone
- • Ergo-Guard - (3 tone) - orange
- • Windsor - (3 tone) grey
- • Check the market for other choices
- Cloth face coverings are permissible.
- Gloves are permissible.
- Do not share uniforms, towels, apparel, and equipment.
- Bring your own water bottle.
- o Maintain social distancing for meetings with captains and coaches
- o Essential off-ice officials should maintain social distancing and wipe down workspace before and after the contest.
3. General Ice Hockey Considerations
- o Before, during and after the contest, players, coaches, game officials, team personnel and game administration officials should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible.
- o Suspend pregame protocol of shaking hands during introductions/pregame meeting.
- o Suspend postgame protocol of shaking hands.
- o Maintain social distancing of 6 feet or greater on the bench when possible.
- o Everyone should have their own beverage container that is not shared.
- o Cloth face coverings are permissible for all coaches and team staff and for all game administration officials.
- o Gloves are permissible for all coaches and team staff and for all game administration officials.
- o Try and limit the number of non-essential personnel who are at ice level and near participants throughout the contest.
- o If available, dressing facilities for game officials and teams should be large enough for them to use social-distancing protocols and should be properly cleaned and sanitized prior to arrival.
- o Disinfect equipment and uniform after use.
- o Learn more by taking the free online course: “COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators.”
**Final as of August 6, 2020
The WIAA Boy’s and Girl’s Hockey season is now underway. The impact of COVID is being felt as schools determine when, if not, whether or not their high school hockey teams can begin practice and competitions.
Below I have organized a couple of key notes from recent questions I’ve received for the awareness of hockey school administrators, coaches and officials as the 2020-21 Hockey season gets rolling:
Participation in Non-school programs until the WIAA Hockey season begins:
Friday, December 4, the WIAA Board of Control approved of a COVID accommodation allowing students to continue to participate in non-school competitions up until the start of in-person school team participation. This does not apply to teams that have begun in-person practices and later pause to quarantine. No school or school coach involvement will be permitted with the extended non-school opportunities.
The bullet points found below are our guidance as it relates to hockey facial coverings:
- Face coverings are required in hockey. This includes all times during active participation and all times during non-active participation.
- “Splash Guards” are allowed for use in WIAA Hockey games. No facial coverings are necessary when a splash guard is used.
- There are no provisions in the Executive Order for medical intolerance reasons or medical waivers. This is not an WIAA regulation, and thus the WIAA has no legal authority to waive or modify this Executive Order from the Governor’s office.
- Consistent with current Executive Orders, face coverings shall be worn by coaches, players, officials, medical staff, game event staff, media members and spectators. Everyone has to wear a mask while they are at an indoor ice rink and high school hockey game.
- In practice and training sessions this same guidance applies.
- Executive Order #1 guidance and rule does not define ‘facial coverings’ for purposes of organized sports. Traditional cloth masks, gaiters, affixed helmet plastic shields, and cloth/fabric helmet attachments located inside the face mask (all of which must cover the nose and mouth) would not be prohibited.
- Although the WIAA is not able to endorse any products, the WIAA will attempt to assist schools in understanding these requirements but know the WIAA has no authority to waive, ignore or modify Executive Orders for any reason.
- Once the Governor’s orders are lifted, our guidance states that athletes/officials may wear a mask while participating in exertion, but it is not required. All others, on-site, should be masked. Schools must follow their district policy and abide by their local health department mandates.
Enforcement of the Mask Policy by Players:
- Enforcement of the mask policy is a collaborative effort between School Administrators, Officials, and Coaches to enforce proper masking.
- Keep in mind, most players are wearing “Splash Guards,” so no additional facial covering is necessary.
- If a player(s) are not wearing splash guards or facial coverings, officials can decide not to work the contest.
- A player not wearing a splash guard or facial covering, or wearing it improperly, can be prevented from entering the contest until they are “properly equipped.”
- Per NFHS Rule 3-4-1, a TEAM WARNING can be issued, if players are on the ice and not wearing a splash guard or facial covering, or wearing it improperly for the first offense.
- Should further offenses occur, a MISCONDUCT, can be issued to the involved player.
- Preventative actions that can be taken include:
- Coaches must continuously address their players whose masks have come down or been pulled down, to secure their masks properly.
- Officials, make a statement to the group or individual players to “mask up.”
- Officials, make a statement to the coaches asking them to enforce the mask rule with their players.
- A linesperson may wait until all players are properly masked to put the puck back in play during a face-off.
- Officials may request a sub for any player who is not/will not mask(ed) properly.
- Game administration may stop a game to address improper masking.
- Games may be ended by Game Administration if proper masking cannot be accomplished.
- The Board of Control will revisit this in the upcoming weeks, to determine if further steps must be taken. It is necessary for all member schools, athletes, coaches, and officials to uniformly abide by the mask rules, so that the basketball season will not be in jeopardy.
COVID Handling Scrums against the Boards
- First players involved in the scrum should be allowed to attempt to dig out the puck.
- Whenever a second group of players arrives, officials should shut down play and blow their whistle to stop play.
- This helps reduce the risk of transmission of the virus on the ice, during play, from one player to another.
Reporting for the first day of hockey practice:
WIAA Sr. High School Handbook, page 334, Rules of Eligibility, Article VI, Section 1, A., 2), “A student who was a member of a school team in a given sport during the previous year may not delay reporting for the school team beyond the school’s official opening day of practice in order to continue non-school training or competition.” Please be certain that all hockey players who participated last year report for your first day of practice.
Yes—allowed. The school determines the start date for practices and the official start of your school’s sport seasons within the WIAA defined sport season. If a school delays the start of the season and virtual coaching opportunities, the students would be able to compete without limitations. Coaching contact would be restricted to the five additional coaching contact days that the Board provided out of season during the school year for Covid-19 relief.
For the winter, schools can choose to begin their seasons virtually with unrestricted school coaching contact. As allowed last spring, coaches can provide individual virtual instruction for student-athletes with training, conditioning, and skill development until the end of the respective winter sport season, which is the final day of the scheduled 2021 state tournament for the respective sport.
Once the school begins its official school sport season whether virtually or in-person, the student-athletes without school and/or coach involvement would be able to practice with a non-school club for practices without limitations, but would be limited to two non-school competitive events (this Covid-19 year, events may include multiple teams on multiple days).
Hockey Coaching Contact:
Coaches may not coach athletes that they will coach the next season out of season during the school year. Varsity and JV coaches may coach 8th grade and below up to the first day of 9th grade. This year, winter sport coaches were allowed five additional Unrestricted School Coaching Contact days prior to the week before the hockey season began. The only other exceptions are provided during the summer time regarding unrestricted school coaching contact and unlimited non-school coaching contact. Consequently, you are not able to coach high school students who will be on your high school team next year at this time—if you wish to coach that high school team next year. A coach who has illegal contact with a player they will coach during the school year outside of the allowed coaching contact periods becomes ineligible to coach that player the following year.
Contact to the Head:
NFHS Rules have now added language that distinguishes between direct and indirect contact to the head. In the current climate of sport, especially contact sports, it is very dangerous for an official not to call and assess the appropriate penalty when head contact occurs. Just like we had years ago with checking from behind, officials can end up taking on the responsibility/liability of a head injury when there is contact directly to the head and no penalty is assessed.
As described in NFHS Rule 7-6-2, “Direct contact occurs when the initial force of the contact occurs to the head or neck area.” The Penalty is a MAJOR or Game Disqualification. In direct contact as found in NFHS Rule 7-6-3 “occurs when the initial force of the contact begins below the neck and progresses upward to the head or neck.” The Penalty assessed is a MINOR. If flagrant, MAJOR or GAME DISQUALIFICATION.
In past years, I have seen players make contact to the head and neck area early in the game in an attempt to intimidate their opponents. If this type of contact occurs, officials need to set the standard early in the contest when this occurs and immediately apply the rule.
All the very best to each team during the weeks ahead.
Tom Shafranski, CAA
Assistant Director and Hockey Liaison