Tougher Hockey Penalties Continue Focus on Safety as 2014-15 Winter Begins

LAPEER — Seasons are underway for teams participating in 12 winter sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments, with stronger penalties for excessive contact in ice hockey highlighting rules changes taking effect with the beginning of competition.

Eight sports including ice hockey began play during the final two weeks of November, with the remaining four sports beginning competition over the next 10 days – Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming and Diving on Dec. 6, Boys Basketball on December 8 and Boys and Girls Skiing on Dec. 13. Upper Peninsula Girls and Boys Bowling teams began competition on Nov. 29, and Lower Peninsula teams may begin Dec. 6.

Changes to ice hockey penalties resulting from opponents being forced into the boards continue a focus on improving safety by establishing different levels of severity based on the flagrance and violence of the offending act.

Any excessive contact – including checking, cross-checking, elbowing, charging or tripping – that causes an opponent to be thrown violently into the boards will receive a 5-minute major penalty; previously this boarding infraction resulted only in a 2-minute minor penalty unless the contact was flagrant. If the flagrant or violent check causes a player to crash headfirst into the boards, a 5-minute major will be assessed as well as either a 10-minute misconduct or game disqualification depending on the severity of the offending check. Players disqualified from ice hockey games are not allowed to play in the next two games as well.

A 5-minute major penalty also will be assessed to any player who pushes, charges, cross-checks or bodychecks an opponent from behind in open ice. Previously, this excessive contact came with a 2-minute minor penalty and 10-minute misconduct.

A handful of notable rules changes also go into effect for girls and boys basketball:

• Intentional fouls were redefined to include excessive contact with any opposing player – not just the shooter – while the ball is live or until an airborne shooter returns to the floor. All excessive contact committed by any player will be ruled intentional.

• Also, additions to the definition of personal foul were added to eliminate excessive contact on ball handlers outside of the lane area. The following additions constitute a foul when committed against the ball handler/dribbler: placing two hands (fronts or backs of hands) on the player, placing an extended arm bar (forearm away from the body) on the player, placing and keeping a hand on the player, and contacting the player more than once with the same hand or alternating hands.

• The rule for players releasing to the lane on a free throw attempt was changed to its previous version; a player occupying a marked lane space again may enter the lane on the release of the ball by the free throw shooter. Players behind the free throw line extended and 3-point arc behind the free throw line must wait until the free throw attempt touches the ring or backboard or has ended (touches the floor) before entering the lane. This was the rule prior to the 1994-95 season.

• Players may wear arm sleeves, knee sleeves, lower leg sleeves and tights, but all sleeves and tights must be black, white, beige or the predominant color of the team’s uniform. All team members wearing sleeves or tights must wear the same color. Knee braces do not count as part of this uniform regulation.

A significant change for wrestling affects team tournaments stretching multiple days, including the MHSAA Finals, for which weighins are conducted each day. An athlete must weigh in at the same weight both days in order to continue competing after the first day of the tournament. Previously, an athlete could compete at whatever weight he or she weighed in at on the first day and then the new weight, if different, on the second day. Beginning this season, that wrestler may not compete the subsequent days of the team event if he or she weighs in at a different weight after the first day.

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