High school hockey coaches and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) have talked about changing the “culture” of hockey. They want player safety to be a top priority in the game of hockey. It’s been a concern for a long time in all levels of hockey including college and the National Hockey League. College hockey implemented stiffer penalties for checking from behind and boarding after injuries forced the NCAA to make a change. The National Hockey League put in new rules for bigger suspensions and fines after serious injuries to Marc Savard and more recently Sidney Crosby.
It’s pretty difficult to change the way a player plays after they’ve been playing for a long time. The players in high school, college, juniors and the National Hockey League are going to keep playing they way they’ve always played for the most part. They might be able to tweak a few aspects of their game but they will still play an aggressive game like they’ve played since they started playing hockey.
Changing the rules of the game will only go so far and will not change the culture of hockey. Players don’t learn to check in high school. It happens long before they reach that level and that is probably the best place to begin trying to change the culture of hockey. You have to start early when kids are just learning how to play hockey and keep instilling in them how important it is to play hockey safely and with respect to the game and your opponent. Players don’t have to like their opponent to respect them.*
*How many fans can’t stand Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin or any player in the National Hockey League? That’s fine but you don’t know much about hockey if you can’t respect how great these players are at playing the game of hockey.
So a lot of this change has to begin with hockey coaches. It’s easy to say the coaches need to be responsible for teaching their players how to legally throw a check including preparing to take a check or avoid a check but there in lies a problem of getting the right instruction instead of the instruction of how each separate coach thinks it should be done. Maybe the leagues, schools and teams need to have more focus on getting the proper instruction and coaching for the players collectively.
Should there be more qualifications to become a coach? Some coaches at the younger levels end up just being a parent of one of the players and haven’t played hockey and don’t know much about the game. How are kids supposed to learn from someone who never even played the game of hockey? How much do they know about hockey and how much can they learn even if they have to go to a 6-hour class to get certified? USA Hockey does a pretty good job of getting coaches the training materials but it takes more than that.
Players are taught to protect the puck by turning their backs to the defender. This causes defenders to have to go through a player to get the puck and that makes for dangerous plays against the boards. Players in the NHL and college hockey turn their backs right before taking a check in an attempt to avoid the check or spin off of it avoiding the main directional impact of the check. These are the best players in the world and they are taking big checks so it seems crazy to think that kids will be able to avoid these types of checks.
From the 2011-2013 USA Hockey Rule Book:
- The purpose of a body check is to separate the opponent from the puck.
- The check must be delivered to the trunk (hips to shoulders) and directly from in front or the side of the opponent.
There’s not much that can be done to teach a player a different way to protect the puck. Does this mean we needs to teach a different way to check a player with the puck? Do they need to change the angles they are coming at the puck carrier from and if they can’t, don’t throw as big a check or play the puck in that situation? That’s relatively obvious in the current state of hockey.
So in this day and age and all the technology around the world, why can’t USA Hockey, the NCAA, the National Hockey League, among others, get together and take the time to come up with the correct way to fix this? That’s is how you change a culture. Start at the top and get people to create and adopt that change together so we can enjoy playing, coaching and watching the best players in the world play the best game in the world!
Ask Siri, maybe she can help!
Do you have any ideas on how to change the culture of hockey? Is it the rules? Tell us in the comments or of Facebook or Twitter.
I’ll continue this series on checking in hockey next week. Check it out then or Hey! Sign up for our feed to get new articles and postings automatically, “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Bring the CLUTTER! every day!
You’ve just been ClutterPucked!