May 2, 2014 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Coaches, NCAA Discuss Rules Changes

CHN Staff Report

The long-standing visor issue and handling overtimes are two of the hottest topics this week as the coaches convene in Naples, Fla., for the annual Coach's Convention.

This is a so-called rules-change year, so the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee is garnering the opinions of coaches before coming up with final proposals it will take to the NCAA Convention in June. The Committee can propose rules changes every two years, which then is usually approved by higher-level NCAA committees.

One issue that is unlikely to be simply rubber-stamped, even if recommended by ice hockey people, is moving to three-quarters visors instead of the full shield or cage that is required now. The issue of full cages has long been a heated topic since they were mandated starting in 1980. Moving away from them has the near-universal support of coaches, but has always been resisted by the NCAA due to safety concerns.

After many years of debate, the issue was finally addressed by the Rules Committee in the last cycle, two years ago. The Committee was close to making a recommendation that three-quarter shields be mandated instead of full ones, but decided at that time to table the discussion until more data on player safety could be compiled. It hopes that compiling thorough data will help convince higher-level NCAA committee people.

The United States Hockey League has gone to a three-quarters shield, and data from that league is being used as to corroborate the study.

Coaches have long believed that full shields and cages restrict peripheral vision and cause players to play more recklessly, and increase the amount of dangerous injuries. The concern is that eliminating full shields will lead to an increase in facial injuries, particularly the teeth.

Also on the agenda is whether to change overtimes to mandate 4-on-4s, like the NHL, and/or mandate shootouts. Currently the NCHC and Big Ten have shootouts to decide overtimes, but they don't count towards a team's overall record for NCAA tournament calculation purposes.

The Committee will also discuss ideas on how to standardize the depth of the nets. Last year, the NHL made the nets more shallow, to give more room for offenses behind the net. College teams haven't done this yet, but when they play games in NHL buildings, the nets are more shallow. However, for NCAA games like the Frozen Four, the NCAA made sure to use "college-sized" nets. If the NCAA changes this to use NHL size, it will need to give time to all schools to purchase new nets.

Among other ideas:

* The idea of prohibiting players from leaving their feet to block shots was discussed, in order to open things up for the offense

* Expanding video replay usage to include things like reviewing major penalties (also see our article on the topic from January);

* Players could be suspended automatically for major penalties taken at the end of games, alleviating the conference commissioners from the responsibility of having to do so through their individual supplementary discipline processes.

* Clarifying hand passes with the intent of having fewer whistles

* All neutral zone faceoffs could be moved to center ice, to open up room for the offense

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