Minor hockey institutes new headshot rule
An increase in concussions and a growing concern for player safety is no longer an issue exclusive to the NHL. Hockey Canada has amended its head contact rule for the 2011-2012 minor hockey season.
“Safety of participants is always our No. 1 priority and we feel the implementation of the Head Contact Rule will minimize the risk on the ice and help reduce the number of concussions and other serious injuries caused by head contact,” said Hockey Alberta General Manager Rob Litwinski.
Rule 6.5 penalizes direct and accidental contact to the head. A minor penalty will be assessed for accidental contact and a four-minute double minor penalty, a five-minute major penalty or a 10-minute game misconduct will be assessed for intentional contact.
Incidental contact includes shoulder-to-shoulder or shoulder-to-chest hits where the follow-through makes contact with a player’s head.
“It’s a change in the standard that we’ve been using for the last four or five years,” said Grant Harrison, director of the Airdrie Referee Association. “Everybody’s hearing about more and more injuries at different levels, and it’s an issue we take very seriously. The emphasis has always been there. We’re now strengthening what we have.”
Reaction to the rule has been mixed, according to Corey Helford, the association’s president and referee-in-chief.
“Some feel that it’s taking away from the game and a lot are disappointed,” he said.
“They’re afraid that all of the body checking is being penalized, which it is to some degree. Trying to complete a body check without hitting the head is a challenge. Then, there are some who have suffered a hit to the head and a concussion, and they support the changes.”
Art Krusel, head coach of the Junior B Airdrie Thunder, said he is concerned any time people tinker with the rules.
“I have never been a fan of head shots or plays by opponents that put a player’s well-being at stake, and I’ve never tolerated guys who are intentionally trying to hurt guys,” Krusel said. “However, I am old school. I know (the refs) are being told to call everything, but they are smothering the game. This game can easily be ruined.”
Helford recognizes that and said it will take a while for people to adjust.
“Players are already changing,” he said. “Some have had the opportunity to hit a guy that would’ve ended with a hit to the head, and I’ve seen guys let up or avoid the check altogether. I think it’s a great change. It’s a great way for hockey to remain a part of a child’s life as they grow up.”