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Ice Hockey Rules Committee to examine three-quarter face shields

By Greg Johnson

The NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee plans to establish a collaborative process with the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to collect data and fully explore the possibility of allowing men’s players to wear three-quarter visors.

Current rules require a full face shield to be worn.

The ice hockey committee did not make a formal proposal but focused more on continuing the process of a full review and data collection effort in the review of current technology. Committee representatives will meet with the competitive-safeguards committee next week to review a wider package of potential enhancements that can be made to enhance student-athlete safety. The committee hopes that a partnership with the competitive-safeguards committee and other hockey organizations (for example, National Hockey League, USA Hockey, United States Hockey League) will lead to the use of visors.

A recent survey of 1,000 student-athletes showed that 83 percent would prefer to utilize a three-quarter shield if given the opportunity. The overwhelming majority of men’s coaches favor three-quarter visor use.

Ice hockey rules committee members, who met Wednesday and Thursday in Indianapolis, believe that such support of the concept mandates a thorough review.

The development of newer, better facial shields that are more protective than traditional half-shields is one driving factor for the committee’s reconsideration of appropriate equipment. In its review, the committee believes that other aspects of equipment must be considered in conjunction with visor technology. For example, representatives of the NHL recently discussed working with manufacturers to develop softer padding, and the NCAA will engage in that discussion.

The NCAA has had an injury surveillance program in all sports for decades. Data will be compared to injury information that other entities, such as the United States Hockey League, collect after players completed their first seasons with the new visors. Over the past year, the USHL collected information on the number of facial injuries and concussions that occurred and has offered to partner with the NCAA on data collection.

Committee members understand the challenge of explaining how removing a piece of protective equipment may have a positive impact on student-athlete safety.

“Our coaches and student-athletes feel the game will be played with more respect, and players will play with less of a sense of invincibility,” said Ed McLaughlin, the chair of the Ice Hockey Rules Committee and director of athletics at Niagara. “We’ve talked about the visors, but also about softer padding in general as another important part of this.”

McLaughlin will meet with the competitive-safeguards committee next week to request engagement and partnership on those issues.

Since 1978, NCAA hockey players have worn full cages. The rule was implemented to protect the eyes of the players. At the time, there wasn’t talk of other injuries such as concussions or facial injuries.

Times have changed, especially in regard to head and brain injuries.

“That is why we want to take a measured approach to this,” McLaughlin said. “We look at how some of the technology has evolved, and the three-quarter visors may be able to address the same needs as when the full cages were put in.”

McLaughlin also noted that student-athletes are coming from playing with these visors before and after NCAA competition.

“All of this factors in as to why this is a passionate issue,” McLaughlin said. “We know our coaches and student-athletes are strongly in favor of this. We want to be sure the broader community has the opportunity to review this and fully understand the potential benefit as one part of a larger improvement to the sport.”

A more detailed communication will be distributed to hockey institutions regarding the committee’s plan in the near future.

The committee did propose several changes to current rules. All rules changes must be approved the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to meet in July via conference call. The main proposals are listed below. All changes will be sent to the membership for comment next week and all feedback will be shared with the hockey committee and the oversight panel.

Overtime option

After a thorough discussion, the committee recommended giving conferences and institutions the option of playing four-on-four, five-minute overtime periods in the regular season beginning with the 2012-13 season. That is the system used in the NHL.

The goalies would still be required to switch ends of the ice, which causes teams to make long line changes, leading to additional scoring opportunities.

The proposed rule is not a mandate. If teams playing in a nonconference game can’t agree on which way overtime will be played, it will default to a five-on-five, five-minute extra period where the goalies will switch ends of the ice.

The format for NCAA tournament games has not changed (five-on-five until a winner is decided).

“There was some support in the membership for four-on-four overtime, and it is an exciting brand of hockey,” McLaughlin said. “We also wanted to respect the membership views that it might not be the best for all levels of hockey right now. Providing an option for everyone is the right step for us.”

The committee will monitor the overtime formats for the next two years to see if any other changes should be made.

“When we made the change two years ago for the goalies to change ends going into overtime, it lessened the number of ties in the sport,” McLaughlin said. “We think making another option available will allow for more data to be collected and to review the impact on our game.”

Hand passes made illegal

Committee members proposed that all hand passes be made illegal, including in the defensive zone.

The referee will stop play on any hand pass, and the faceoff will be in the offending team’s defensive zone. Additionally, if the team commits the violation in its defensive zone, that team will not be able to change its players before the ensuing faceoff.

 “This is a way to promote scoring and create more chances on offense,” McLaughlin said. “Not being able to make a line change can have a pretty big impact, and this takes away a rule that gave the defensive team an advantage.”

Net dislodgement change

The committee also adjusted its rules dealing with the goal cage becoming dislodged. The committee essentially moved to the NHL rule in this area, which allows some displacement of the goal as long as the posts remain in contact with the pegs or pins.


“Our rules currently don’t allow for much leeway, and we believe we have disallowed too many goals that really should count,” McLaughlin said. “The NHL rules have been used effectively, and we believe this is a positive change.”

To award a goal in these situations, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player. To award a goal, the referee must determine that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts.

Distinct kicking motion

Another proposed change by the committee is intended to enhance scoring and also make its rules more consistent. The committee approved a change that will allow most goals off of attacking player’s skates, with the exception of a distinct kicking motion. In recent years, the committee has attempted a variety of interpretations in this area.

“We ultimately believe bringing some clarity to this rule is important and allowing goals that are directed into the goal with a skate will be a positive move,” McLaughlin said. “It seems like the hockey community is comfortable with the concept of a distinct kicking motion, so we hope this brings some clarity to this rule as well.”

Officiating system

Effective with the 2013-14 season, the committee voted to make the two-referee, two-linesman system mandatory for men’s ice hockey. Feedback from the women’s ice hockey community indicated that the two-referee, one-linesman system should remain as an option for the foreseeable future. All four NCAA championships used the two-referee, two-linesman system in 2012.

Additionally, goal judges are no longer required for NCAA games and will only be recommended.

“Our rules truly require two referees, and the committee strongly believes the four-person system is the best overall,” McLaughlin said. “We believe providing a grace period will allow institutions time to adjust and plan.”

The NCAA adjusted officiating fees in the 2012 Division III championships (men’s and women’s) to make the change immediately and reduced travel costs by not using a back-up official.

Postgame review of disqualifications

The committee voted to allow a postgame review of disqualification penalties by the on-ice officials. The group requested conference feedback on how best to implement a procedure and guidelines for the concept, but the belief is a disqualification penalty, with the help of video evidence, is an important determination and should be reviewed. The calling official will have the final decision on any review.

New chair

The committee approved the appointment of Tom Anastos, head men’s coach at Michigan State, as the chair of the committee, effective Sept. 1.