USA Hockey Announces Playing Rule Changes

MODIFICATIONS INCLUDE REMOVING ICING IN SHORTHANDED SITUATIONS

At the 2017 USA Hockey Annual Congress, the USA Hockey Board of Directors passed a series of rule changes. USA Hockey’s Official Playing Rules are evaluated and have the opportunity to be modified every four years according their official rule change policy.

A total of 60 youth hockey rules were modified by USA Hockey and will go into effect starting with the 2017-18 season. The majority of the changes were designed to further clarify the intent of the existing rule or update its language. The most significant rule change is that shorthanded teams will no longer be allowed to ice the puck at the Bantam level and below.

At the Bantam (14U) and below age categories, a shorthanded team is no longer permitted to ice the puck without a consequence. The consequence is that such a situation will now result in an icing call by the officials and the resulting faceoff will occur in the offending team’s defensive zone similar to when both teams are at equal on-ice strength.

The rationale behind this rule change is twofold.

First, and most importantly, the change will encourage greater skill development for 10U, 12U and 14U players. These young athletes are in their prime skill development windows and will benefit greatly from the increased emphasis this rule change places on promoting puck possession, puck protection and play-making (as opposed to merely firing the puck down the ice, which is a low-skill tactic). Second, the change prevents a penalized team from gaining an exception to a rule (icing) that is in effect while teams are at even strength.

“We want to encourage players to get their heads up, think and make skillful, intelligent plays,” said Ken Martel, the technical director of USA Hockey’s American Development Model. “To develop problem-solving skills, we need rules that encourage players to think. Modifying the shorthanded icing rule will accomplish that. Rather than just blasting the puck down the ice, they’ll now be encouraged to skate or pass their way out of trouble, use greater touch to chip a puck out, or even take advantage of a lazy power play and go on the attack.”

Data collected from nearly 200 games played under this modified rule showed that the average number of shorthanded icings per game was only 1.81. Therefore, there were fewer than two stoppages per game due to this rule, which dispels the myth that it will ruin the flow of games and make them dramatically longer.

USA Hockey has successfully used this modified rule for more than 10 years at its National Player Development Camps. Players adapt almost immediately and more shorthanded scoring opportunities are created by the play-making mindset that it nurtures.

Other significant rule changes include:

  • All faceoffs will occur at one of the nine dots on the ice.
  • Rule 411, which relates to progressive suspension of players for aggressive infractions, will now include holding/grabbing the facemask.
  • Rule 601, which relates to the application of a game misconduct penalty for inappropriate language, now has expanded from racial/ethnic slurs to include any language that is “offensive, hateful or discriminatory in nature” anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game.
  • All coaches must complete their online age-specific module prior to participating with their team.

In USA Hockey’s summary of the rule changes, president Jim Smith affirmed the changes made this summer will enhance and complement the existing rules in USA Hockey’s effort to provide a safe and positive youth hockey environment for all participant.

“I believe overall everyone feels our game is in a really good place,” said Smith. “The most important thing we need to focus on is our current rules in place. Our officials play such a big role in the overall safety of the game and we appreciate their efforts to fully enforce the current standard of play that exists in the book.”