HOUGHTON - Several rule changes were approved by the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee earlier this month, but it's a rule that was not changed - at least not yet - that garnered the most reaction within the college hockey community.
The committee decided not to allow players to wear three-quarter visors on their helmets, despite overwhelming support from players and coaches. A recent survey of 1,000 student-athletes showed that 83 percent would prefer to utilize the three-quarter shield if given the chance, as opposed to the full cage that has been required to be worn since 1978.
"In years past coaches have voted 100 percent to go to visors," Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "There's a few different safety committees that have put the kibosh on it. ... I think we're the only league from junior and above that doesn't allow our players to wear a three-quarter shield. We're the dinosaurs still as far as that goes."
Michigan Tech forward Jordan Baker’s stick makes contact with the helmet of Alaska-Anchorage forward Tyler Currier during a game earlier this year. College hockey players have been required to wear full shields since 1978, and that will be true for at least one more year following decisions from recent rule change meetings. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Pearson and others in favor of the change feel the game would be played with more respect and players would play with less of a sense of invincibility, but it's a big challenge to convince a safety committee that removing a piece of equipment makes the game safer.
"We know our coaches and student-athletes are strongly in favor of this," Ed McLaughlin, chair of the rules committee, said. "We want to be sure the broader community has the opportunity to review this and fully understand the potential benefit as one part of a larger improvement to the sport."
The NCAA's Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports has an injury surveillance program in place and they will compare it with other hockey leagues such as the United States Hockey League.
"We were a little disappointed (in delaying the decision to go to three-quarter shields), but I get it," Pearson said. "My hope is that eventually they find enough info to allow them."
The following rule changes were proposed at the June 6-7 rules committee meetings in Indianapolis, but they still must be approved by the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets in July:
Conferences will be given an option to use a four-on-four overtime system for the five-minute period, instead of the current five-on-five format.
Pearson, who likes the current overtime structure, said the issue was not discussed during the June 12-14 Western Collegiate Hockey Association meetings in light of other major conference realignment topics.
Defensive zone hand passes will be eliminated, making the rule consistent everywhere on the ice. A hand pass in the defensive zone would result in a defensive-zone faceoff and disallow the offending team from changing lines.
Goals will be allowed if they enter the net off the skates, except when they are directed in with a "distinct kicking motion," matching the rule with the NHL and what Pearson was hoping to see. The current rule disallows all goals off skates unless clearly accidental.
Goals may be allowed if the net comes off its pegs when the puck crosses the line. Referees will be able to decide if the puck would still have went in if the net had not been dislodged by a defensive player.
Goal judges are now recommended and not required.
Video review may be used for disqualification penalties.
Two referees and two linesmen will be mandatory for men's ice hockey, effective in the 2013-14 season.
The committee also approved the appointment of Michigan State coach Tom Anastos as the chair of the committee, effective Sept. 1.