Players and coaches should be expected to master some of the well-known playing regulations

Officially Speaking

By Mark Lichtenfeld. Originally published at State of Hockey:

Western Regional Silver Sticks just left town and though the hockey was pretty much legitimate AA as advertised, OS was most surprised by the ignorance of basic USA Hockey rules displayed by several of the coaches. I mean, this is 16U and 18U AA, and at the very least, coaches should be expected to master some of the well-known playing regulations, no?

Rule misapprehension No. 1. Too Many Players on the Ice.

So the coach of a certain 16U team, replete with oversized USA Hockey National Championship patch donning the chest area of his jacket, gets all flustered when I called a too many players infraction on the opponent.

“What’s wrong?” I query.

“You waited 15 seconds to shut the play down,” he hollers.

“Yeah, that’s when the offending team gained possession,” I retort.

“That’s not the rule for a too many players penalty,” he insists. “You have to blow the whistle immediately.”


So let’s look at USA Hockey Rule 409.

Rule 409 | Calling of Penalties

(a) Should an infraction of the rules be committed by a player of the team in possession and control of the puck, the Referee shall immediately stop play and assess the penalty(s) to the offending player(s).

Now, it’s true that this rule refers to “player of the team,” but that is a problem with the rulebook verbiage. In fact, the rulebook that makes no exception to the team in possession rule when the infraction is too many players. Like any other “infraction of the rules” being assessed against a single team, play continues until the offending team obtains possession.

Rule ignorance No. 2. The simple USA Hockey Rule 409 scenario when a shorthanded team is being assessed a delayed penalty and the opponent scores a goal.

Rule 409(b). If the Referee signals an additional minor penalty(s) against a team that is already shorthanded (below the numerical strength of its opponent on the ice at the time of the goal) because of one or more minor or bench minor penalties, and a goal is scored by the non-offending team, the goal shall be allowed. The delayed penalty(s) shall be assessed and the first non-coincidental minor penalty already being served shall terminate automatically under Rule 402(c) (Minor Penalties).

OK, so try explaining this to a 16U AA coach who’s been plastered on the sofa watching too much idiot box and insists that the delayed penalty is waved off while the original offender stays in the box. So what if that’s the NHL rule? This is USA Hockey, right? And you’re supposed to be a AA coach competing in the Western Regional Silver Sticks. Watch out for this, you coaches, parents and impressionable players.

Rule insanity No. 3. Tell me, how does an 18U AA head coach not comprehend the USA Hockey high-sticking rule? You know, when a player plays the puck with a stick above the shoulder resulting in a stoppage and a faceoff in the offending team’s defensive end zone.

Let me repeat this one more time for you ignorant coaches. I say ignorant only because no one, coaches in particular, should ever call out a veteran official for an alleged rule error when that coach himself is ignorant of the very rule debated. In this case, the rule is the USA Hockey high-sticking Rule 621(c), and here is the applicable casebook scenario:

Situation 8: A player high sticks the puck which deflects to an opponent. The opponent makes no attempt to play the puck, hoping to get a faceoff in the offending team’s Defending Zone when the puck is first played by a member of the offending team. What should the Referee do?

The Referee should stop play and the ensuing faceoff shall take place at an end faceoff spot in the Defending Zone of the offending team. Rule Reference 621(c).

The non-offending team has no obligation to play the puck in this instance, because of the high stick infraction committed by the opposing team.

Got that, Mr. 18U AA coach? I stopped play because the opposing team wasn’t interested in playing the puck since they understood the rule.

In sum, and this is for you younger players in particular, as you proceed through college and life in general, never engage in debate with an opponent unless you are absolutely certain of your facts AND you are positively convinced your opponent is ignorant of his or her respective facts.

Because as the aforementioned scenarios illustrate, certain coaches have lost credibility with their young players, and credibility lost is immensely difficult to retrieve.


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Officially Speaking is originally published at State of Hockey,
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Reprinted with permission.