Rules Committee Concludes Meetings
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Without any monumental changes to deal with, the NCAA Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Committee focused on a number of rules tweaks at their annual meetings in New Orleans, which concluded Thursday.
In addition, the committee took "no action" on the CHA proposal to allow 4-on-4 play during regular-season conference overtime games. According to Rules Committee chair Joe Bertagna, the proposal wasn't denied, it was simply shelved until a more detailed proposal is received.
"I got a letter in March about the proposal from [then-CHA commissioner] Bruce McLeod," said Bertagna. "The letter said they would get a more specific proposal to us at a later time, and they never did.
"We didn't discuss it. When we saw the letter, it implied there'd be more details. We didn't think it was right to discuss it without those details."
The CHA recently made former Bemidji coach Bob Peters its first full-time commissioner.
Bertagna said nothing was necessarily standing in the way of such a rule being passed, and that it could be revisited next year.
"I like experimental rules. I think it's a good idea," he said.
One significant rule change was the addition of a minor penalty for instigation. Unlike the pro hockey penalty of the same name, the rule is not meant to tag players who start a fight with an automatic ejection. Instead, the college rule will enable referees to call an extra two-minute minor to players who start altercations of any kind.
"I've always been annoyed at a situation after the whistle where something happens, and each player gets a minor even though one guy started it," said Bertagna, who concluded his third year of a four-year stint as committee chair. "[The rule] had been proposed by the WCHA for the last year or two.
"When we first looked at it, we took the approach that the referee could call an extra two if he wanted to. But [the WCHA] made a case that it's not happening [that way]. Maybe [the referees] would be more willing to call it if there was a specific penalty for it."
The penalty cannot be given alone and would most often be used in conjunction with coincidental minors.
The committee also changed the diving rule that was implemented a year ago. They changed it from a 10-minute misconduct to a 2-minute minor.
"We [originally] made it a misconduct thinking that refs don't want to put a team down a man [for diving]," Bertagna said. "We've changed it to a minor, so we'll see how that goes."
Two noteworthy points of emphasis were also implemented.
First, as a result of recent criticism by some coaches over assistant referees taking too active a role in calling penalties, a clarification was written that will more clearly define an AR's duties.
The role of the assistant referee, as originally intended, was, chiefly, to call minors behind the play that the referee missed.
However, many coaches incorrectly believed that was the AR's sole responsibility.
"Some coaches in the WCHA, because the assistant referees [in their league] never called penalties while in the same zone with the ref, they thought that was a policy," Bertagna said.
On the other hand, there were perhaps some assistant referees making too many calls.
"The assistant referee should call any major, whether the ref sees it or not," Bertagna said. "[Plus] those minors that can affect scoring opportunities or lead to injury. [But] we don't want marginal calls, where the assistant referee is overruling the head ref."
Another point of emphasis was made about speeding up the game, specifically in areas such as line changes, faceoffs and intermissions.
"There are games that coaches play on line changes, and they take too much time," said Bertagna. "And faceoffs, with guys jockeying for position.
"You could probably save 10 minutes a game. For TV and for fans, everyone has an interest in making things go quickly."
The meeting was the final one for Colgate coach Don Vaughan as a committee member. It was also the first meeting ever with a women's hockey representative — Harvard coach Katey Stone. The men's and women's committees were combined last fall. Women's hockey intends on keeping the same rule book as the men, except for their no checking policy.
Bertagna said, all in all, it was another smooth meeting. He gave some credit for that to Michigan State coach Ron Mason.
"I don't know if all committees work this way, but we work real smoothly," Bertagna said. "Part of it is Ron Mason. He's a giant of the game, but he is very good [in the meetings]. You'd think he'd come in there and pull rank. He speasks strongly, but he allows himself to have his mind changed."