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NFHS Ice Hockey Rule Changes Affect Sticks, Helmets for 2019-20 Season

HDA News , Rules • May 23, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (May 22, 2019) — Lengths of sticks and requirements for helmets and facemasks were among nine rules changes approved for the 2019-20 boys and girls high school ice hockey season. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Ice Hockey Rules Committee recommended the changes at its April 29-30 meeting in Indianapolis, and all changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Three changes in Rule 3 related to equipment expand the maximum length of a player’s stick from 63 to 65 inches and the goalkeeper’s stick from 26 to 28 inches. Additionally, Rule 3-4-5 now emphasizes the requirement that all players, including goalkeepers, must wear helmets and facemasks that meet HECC/ASTM standards at the time of manufacture.

“From an awareness and educational standpoint, the committee continues to push the importance of wearing proper equipment for the health and safety of our participants,” said Dan Schuster, NFHS director of educational services and liaison to the Ice Hockey Rules Committee. “The committee has done a great job over the past several years and has put the rules in a good place.”

In Rule 5-3i, referees will now suspend the game – as opposed to terminating the game – if playing conditions become unsatisfactory. Suspending a contest allows it to be resumed, restarted or ended, with the decision resting with the schools, leagues and administration rather than solely with the referee.

Rule 7-10-3 now clarifies that striking an opponent with the stick above the opponent’s shoulders is prohibited, regardless of whether the action was intentional or not. The change also eliminates repetitive language to allow the official to assess the appropriate penalty for an infraction.

“This creates consistency with other fouls of this nature,” Schuster said. “It gives officials flexibility to call what they see. Officials can call a minor penalty or if flagrant, a major penalty or game disqualification, depending on the severity of the infraction.”

Changes to Rules 4-7-5 and 9-2-1 make it clear that only goalkeepers can defend a penalty shot and establish that only players in goalkeeper equipment are given goalkeeper privileges, regardless of when they are substituted.

“The intent of the rules is to have goalkeepers defend the goal cage,” Schuster said. “Goalkeepers have specific equipment for a reason. This change cleans up language that other players should not be defending the goal cage.”

Two revisions to Rule 9 involve game flow. Prior to a faceoff, officials will now present the puck to the players before dropping the puck, allowing players to better see the puck before it is dropped and increasing the chance of a clean faceoff. The second change moves 9-1-11k to 9-1-9e since there is no offending team in 9-1-11, which covers when a puck deflects off an official and is illegally scored. The faceoff will now take place where the puck was last fairly played.

“It doesn’t happen often, but the committee did not like seeing the faceoff come outside of the zone in that situation,” Schuster said.

A complete listing of all rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Ice Hockey.”

More than 35,000 boys participate in ice hockey across the country in 1,610 high schools, and more than 9,500 girls participate in the sport in 622 schools, according to the 2017-18 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have boys and girls participating in high school hockey in 2017-18. The states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.