High School Ice Hockey Rules Changes Focus on Penalties for Hits from Behind


INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 14, 2012) — In an effort to promote safer play and minimize the risk of injury, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Ice Hockey Rules Committee approved changes that will strengthen the language for checking from behind.

The checking-from-behind change was one of five rules revisions approved by the rules committee at its April 23-24 meeting in Indianapolis. The changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

Dan Schuster, NFHS staff liaison to the Ice Hockey Rules Committee, said that player safety was the main factor in the rules change.

“Because of the attention being given to dangerous play, the committee really took a hard look at the severity of injuries caused by these hits,” he said. “The reason behind the rule is more about addressing a change of culture in high school hockey, and players, coaches, officials and fans need to understand the consequences of these hits.”

Rule 6-7-1 states, “No player shall push, charge, cross-check or body-check an opponent from behind in open ice,” and a violation would result in a minor and misconduct penalty. Rule 6-7-2 also states, “Hitting from behind into the boards or goal frame is a flagrant violation,” and a violation calls for a game disqualification.

Rule# 6-7 Checking From Behind

ART. 1 … No player shall push, charge, cross-check or body-check an opponent from behind in open ice. PENALTY: MINOR AND MISCONDUCT.

ART. 2 … Hitting from behind into the boards or goal frame is a flagrant violation. PENALTY: GAME DISQUALIFICATION.

NOTE: The rules committee reminds coaches and players that the responsibility remains with the player approaching an opponent along the boards in this rule. While players turning to draw penalties are a concern, the positive change in behavior the committee observed outweighs this issue. Any penalty in relation to this rule along the boards or into the goal frame must be a game disqualification.

RATIONALE: Strengthens language and emphasizes this dangerous issue in hockey. Creates a situation where an official has fewer options to avoid calling a check from behind.

Two additional rules changes will affect the goal crease. First, the high school goal crease will now have a different look, matching the crease used by both the National Hockey League and National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Rule# 1-4

One foot outside of each goal post, a 2-inch-wide (5.08 cm) red line shall be painted extending 4 feet, 6 inches (1.37 m) in length.  These lines shall be perpendicular to the goal line.  A semicircular red line 6 feet (1.83 m) in radius and 2 inches (5.08 cm) in width shall be drawn using the center of the goal line as the center point and connecting both ends of the sides of the crease.

RATIONALE: High school hockey is often played in rinks that have the proposed crease dimensions. This will create consistency for both players and officials. The questionnaire indicated support for this change.

Also, Rule 6-23-4 now states, “no attacking player shall stand on the goal-crease line or in the goal crease if, in the opinion of the official, the player physically prevents the goalkeeper from defending the goal.”

Rule 6-23-4 (NEW)

No attacking player who is in the goal crease (body and/or stick) may make incidental contact with or visually impede the goalkeeper.  PENALTY: Stoppage in play, if a goal is scored it shall be disallowed, faceoff at the nearest neutral zone faceoff spot.  This rule applies if all of these conditions are met: (a) the attacking team is in possession of the puck, (b) the goalkeeper is in the goal crease, and (c) the puck is not already in the crease.

NOTE: Regardless of the location of the goalkeeper or the puck, if the goalkeeper is physically prevented from defending the goal, apply rule 6-17-5 or 6-17-6.

RATIONALE:  This would count those goals which are scored when a player’s stick and/or skate(s), which may have come into the crease, have no impact on the goalkeeper’s ability to defend the goal or whether or not the puck entered the net.

According to Schuster, this rule is meant to eliminate unnecessary whistles that stop play when a player is in the crease but has no effect on the goalkeeper.

“As long as a player isn’t physically disrupting or visually impeding the goalkeeper, he or she can stand in the crease,” he said.

Additional rules changes were:

Rule 5-2-3: Officials will now be required to wear a half face shield on their helmets, effective in the 2013-14 season. All other official uniform requirements remain the same.

Rule# 5-2-3

*Effective for the 2013-14 season- The on-ice officials shall be dressed in black trousers, an official’s sweater and a black HECC certified ice hockey helmet, with a half face shield which meets the HECC standard at the time of manufacture and chin strap fastened. They shall be equipped with whistles. The referees in the three-official or four-official system shall wear arm bands.

RATIONALE: Use of the glass surrounding the rink has now become commonplace. The puck, as well as sticks, are higher and have resulted in an increase of on-ice officials sustaining injuries to or near the eyes. Many years ago, the requirement for players to wear face protection was enacted. It is now time to require the on-ice officials to wear face protection. Many years ago, it was through the implementation of rules changes that on-ice officials were required to wear helmets. The half face shield’s time has come for high school hockey.


Rule 3-3-4: If a team challenges the opposing goalkeeper’s equipment, the official should not stop play to measure but should report the challenge to the state association. This rule was amended to limit stoppages of play.

Rule# 3-3-4

If a team challenges the opposing team’s goalkeeper equipment under 3-3-2 and 3-4-3, no measurement is required and the officials should report the challenge to the state association.

RATIONALE: When this rule was passed four years ago, there was no process for handling a coach’s challenge. The process identified will allow the contest to continue and the state association may investigate the challenge after the contest. This will allow for a smooth transition with new goalkeeper equipment measurements.