EAST LANSING– Seasons are underway for teams participating in 12 winter sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) sponsors postseason tournaments, with a continuing focus on safety highlighting rules changes taking effect with the first days of competition, as announced by the MHSAA on December 6.
Basketball, wrestling and ice hockey are among sports with noticeable changes to enhance safety this winter. In basketball, a change has been made to further protect the free-throw shooter from being displaced immediately after attempting a shot. Players occupying marked free-throw lane spaces may enter the lane on the release of the ball but may not touch or cross the free-throw line extended, into the semicircle, until the ball is released and touches the ring or backboard. Other players not occupying marked lane spaces may not have either foot beyond the vertical plane of the free-throw line extended and the 3-point line which is farther from the basket until the ball touches the ring or until the free throw ends. Both are designed to keep the free-throw shooter free from contact and alone in the semicircle directly following the shot attempt.
Also in basketball, non-playing personnel including cheerleaders, media and school supervisors must remain outside the playing area during a timeout 30 seconds or shorter. Non-playing personnel also must remain throughout the game in the areas between the free-throw lines extended and sidelines, to provide a safer environment free of possible collisions for both playing and non-playing personnel.
Officials will be on the lookout in wrestling for a hold that could lead to a competitor being dropped to the mat after a lift without the ability to use his or her arms to break the fall because they are trapped as part of the hold. If a wrestler, from a standing position, is placed in a body lock with one or both arms trapped, the offensive wrestler is required to safely return that defensive wrestler to the mat through a variety of legal moves. Officials will stop the match if a lift is coming or imminent that would result in the defensive wrestler being unable to break his or her fall because of an arm trap.
In hockey, contact to the head or neck area will be penalized with multiple levels of severity in 2016-17, depending on the extent and intent of that contact. If contact to the head or neck area is deemed to be direct – that is, with the initial force of the contact occurring to the neck or head area – that contact will be considered a flagrant foul and result in a major penalty or game disqualification. If the contact is deemed indirect – with the initial force of the contact beginning below the neck and progressing upward to the head or neck area – the result will be a minor penalty unless the indirect contact is deemed by officials to be flagrant, which again will result in a major or game disqualification.
Also of note in hockey, all players (excluding goaltenders) must now take a stationary position on all faceoffs before the puck is dropped. By eliminating motion prior to faceoffs, this rule change is designed to also eliminate any possible advantage gained by players previously working for better position.