No More "Finishing Your Checks" Will Impact The Game


In June USA Hockey (USAH) published a new point of emphasis within the current playing rules titled: Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play, and Respect. Implementing this is the result of USAH wanting to make the game for everyone, especially at the youth level, and the desire to remove the intimidation factor that has been a part of hockey for longer than I've been alive. The 1970s Broad Street Bullies wouldn't stand a chance if this was in place back then. If you have the time, and if you are involved in anything USAH-related you already should have watched this video on what is exactly being considered acceptable and unacceptable. ​​ As a society we have realized even a single blow to the head is less than ideal, so the head contact penalties, in addition to charging and checking from behind infractions are nothing new. What is now the biggest shift is targeting the late hits and bodychecks that are considered done for intimidation purposes. Being a head coach of a 16U team, I must admit that this has been a very confusing and somewhat frustrating first month of the season regarding how the games are being called. To be fair, that is to be expected as everyone - players, coaches, and officials- are going through a learning process and trying to adapt primarily to what is regarded as a clean body check and what is deemed "late" or "unnecessary." The toughest calls I've seen so far have been the open-ice body checks. So what does this have to do with anything related to Junior Hockey right now? Right off the bat if you are playing in the USHL, NAHL, NA3HL or EHL, the mentality and attitude of the game you were taught growing up has had to change. It’s still too early to tell how much it is changing, or being forced to change, at those levels. What this also does do is alter the future of how Junior hockey will be played, which will lead to how the collegiate and professional levels are played. If I was a betting man, and this is obvious with how USAH has been promoting youth hockey associations to train their players, we will be seeing an even bigger transition towards a European-style game (less physical and more skill-based) instead of what has been considered the "rough and tumble" North American brand. The days of physically pummeling your opponent to a pulp are nearing an end which is going to piss off a lot of NHL playoff viewers and upset a lot of fans of old school hockey. It's also going to bother the fans of the game who love watching guys blow someone up (e.g. Washington’s Tom Wilson) because now they need to make an effort to actually play the puck. Again, this will happen over time and not necessarily coming to any professional or Junior club near you immediately. This is almost reverse of what effect the 2004-05 NHL lockout had on the USAH rules back then. If you were a senior playing varsity high school, like myself that season, it was a nightmare how many penalties were called due to "obstruction.” Things that we had been taught our entire playing careers became illegal overnight. Thankfully it has dialed down a bit since but the game has changed also. Now the youth hockey rules will eventually trickle up and change the players that will enter the pro game. If you think the professional game isn't going to be affected due to that, I've got a bridge to sell you I love physical, hard-nosed hockey. Eric Lindros was one of my favorite players growing up. While the Neanderthal in me hopes to not see highly physical play stick around, I get the reasons behind the revolution. It’s essentially adapt or die. Intimidation and "finishing your checks" are dying a slow death.


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