Tim Whitehead doesn’t disagree with the idea of enforcing icing while a college hockey team is killing a penalty. In fact, the University of Maine men’s hockey coach believes such a rule change would promote skill and increase scoring on the power play.

But Whitehead’s concern is that the rule doesn’t exist at any other level of competitive hockey. There’s concern in the college hockey community over the fact that coaches from each of the five Division I leagues voted against the proposed rule, one of a handful of changes that could go into effect next season based on the recommendation of the NCAA’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee.

The NCAA alters rules every two years, in even-numbered years.

“I know what coaches are saying, that there would be more whistles, and there’s a point there,” said Whitehead, who abstained from voting on the rule change at the recent American Hockey Coaches Association meetings. “But having said that, there might be more goals. I think it will encourage teams to use skill, to clear the zone without icing the puck in order to make a (line) change on the ice.

“I don’t think it would make a huge change. We’re doing it on five-on-five anyway. To me, it wouldn’t surprise me if the NHL does go that route. I wasn’t passionate about changing it, but I’m fine with it.”

WIDESPREAD DISAPPROVAL

Some coaches, however, have already expressed their displeasure with the proposed icing rule. Bemidji State Coach Tom Serratore told the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that the change is “just a crime.” Boston University Coach Jack Parker told the Daily Free Press, BU’s student publication, that coaches are already lobbying to get particular rules changes repealed.

“The material that the rules committee sent out (June 11) is still making its way through the community,” Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna said. “Once coaches do get a handle on it, they’ll understand it, but right now there’s a pretty strong sentiment out there and a lot of opposition.”

Bertagna, who served a four-year term on the hockey rules committee, including two as chairman, explained that prior to the panel’s approval there is a window of time in which coaches, athletic directors and league commissioners can comment on proposed rule changes. The committee can take that feedback into consideration.

Bertagna said commissioners from the five Division I leagues have discussed their concerns with the rules committee.

College hockey has evolved into a guinea pig of sorts for rules implementation, and Bertagna acknowledges that the sport hasn’t had a great history with experimentation.

“This is a situation where the current committee feels this is the best thing we can do,” Bertagna said. “I’m not sure what drove them to this. I don’t think there was a groundswell of support for any of the changes.”

The rule that calls for enforcing icing while a team is short-handed has created the most controversy in the coaching community.

Providence Coach Tim Army is not against the proposed rule but has concerns about player safety and susceptibility to injury, and questions why the rule is being recommended after coaches voted against it.

“Hockey East voted against it at the Florida meetings and every conference voted against it,” Army said. “It was overwhelming.

“There’s some concerns as to why are we not supporting it and why is it going to the July commission? Why is this still alive? There’s some concern there.”

OTHER RULE CHANGES

Among the proposed rule changes assessing a five-minute major penalty, a game misconduct or a game disqualification for a contact-to-the-head infraction.

“There’s been a serious increase in concussions over the last five to 10 years,” Whitehead said. “We have to do something to curb that increase. College hockey has really put the clamps down on this, and it’s a great move for the NCAA, and it’s a matter of time before the NHL follows suit.”

The mandate also falls in line with the growing awareness about concussions and head-injury prevention.

“Body contact is a necessary element of the game, very much in the fabric of the game,” Army said. “But that’s good, clean, hard body checking to dislodge a player from the puck. But unnecessary hits from behind and to the head can cause injury, and they can be reckless. We need to eliminate that.”

Other proposed changes include: waving off automatic icing if an official determines that an attacking player would reach the puck before a defending player; awarding a power play even if a goal is scored during a delayed penalty; and changing the end that each team defends in overtime, with goalies switching ends after the third period.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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