Student-athlete safety and how officials enforce the hockey rules currently in place were the major focus of discussions at the most recent Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee annual meetings.

In reviewing several key initiatives and data about the game, the committee determined that enforcement of the current rules is an area that needs improvement. The emphasis in the 2013-14 season will incorporate many pieces of past standards, but with a renewed focus in some areas that would be in similar alignment with the National Hockey League. In all cases, current rules support this renewed emphasis. The committee will focus on:

• Protecting the puck carrier
• Holding and pinning along the boards
• Interference during faceoff plays
• Slashing as an illegal tactic to separate a player from the puck

“We looked at the game overall and really believe the standard of enforcement at all levels needs a renewed focus,” said Tom Anastos, chair of the committee and men’s coach at Michigan State. “This is a perfect time to reset the standard a bit, since it does not require any rules changes.”

We looked at the game overall and really believe the standard of enforcement at all levels needs a renewed focus.
-- Tom Anastos

A significant point the committee raised dealt with the concern about hitting from behind. While many of these violations are penalized appropriately, the committee is concerned that nationally a number of these violations continue to occur. In addition, some of these violations are being penalized as a minor penalty for boarding or another infraction.

“Enforcement is part of the issue here, but improving this area has to be collaborative,” Anastos said. “Coaches and players are reminded that the responsibility remains with the player approaching an opponent along the boards. Our rule is very clear.”

The committee noted there have been positive changes in this behavior recently, but student-athletes turning to draw penalties are still a concern. Any penalty in relation to this rule along the boards or into the goal cage must be a major penalty and a game misconduct or disqualification.

Another point of emphasis that was raised for officials was faceoff procedures. After some significant pace of play advances when faceoff procedures were limited several seasons ago, the committee believes officials have become lax with enforcing the limitations appropriately.

The men’s rules committee also continued to review the use of three-quarter face shields. Injury data continue to be collected and reviewed and no timetable has been set for making a recommendation.

“We need to be deliberate as we review what equipment is appropriate for our game,” Anastos said. “A very important aspect of this is injury data, but also to take a full inventory of other potential changes that might be considered in conjunction with a visor.”