Club news

Officials and teams adapt to new rule changes

Elite League teams and officials will have new rules to adapt to when the season gets underway in full flow this weekend.

The latest IIHF rulebook has just been published as a new four-year cycle get underway, with officials all over the world learning the alterations for game play alongside the EIHL Rulebook/Casebook which puts an emphasis on speeding the game up and rewarding the speed and skill of the players.

Director of Hockey Operations Michael Hicks spoke of how and why these new rules have been absorbed into the EIHL.

“The goal of the Elite League is to promote a safe and positive playing environment for all participants while continuing to focus on skill development and enjoyment of the sport,” he said.

“Through the standard of rules enforcement, our game will continue to allow the opportunity for improved skill development and a more positive hockey environment for all participants.

“The mission of the Elite League is clear; through this initiative a greater emphasis will be placed on skating, puck possession and the proper use of the body to establish position and a competitive advantage.

“The goal of the enforcement standard is to reduce restraining infractions in the game and not to remove legal body checking or body contact.

“A hard body check or using body contact/position to gain a competitive advantage over the opponent should not be penalised as long as it is performed within the rules.

“The new IIHF rules give us a starting point to work with, which all pro leagues in Europe then have adapt to in complementing their style of play in their league.  This has been taken into account for us too.”

As a result of the new rulebook, fans will have noticed new calls being made during the pre-season games as referees up and down the country apply them.

Referees took part in a training camp last month in Nottingham, while all coaches took part in a conference call to give them the chance to gain an understanding and ask questions.

Mike outlined what he regarded as the main ones that spectators will have seen, or will see as the new season begins.

He added: “There are a few rules and guidelines that have come into place which the fans will be keen to know about as well when the action begins.

“In particular, the ‘late hit’, face-off procedures and the freezing of the puck by the goaltender rules are a couple we’ll look at as they come into effect from this year.

“Fans will see these at close quarters and perhaps have done so already in pre-season so it’s important to highlight how they might possibly impact games going forward.

“It’s going to be an action-packed weekend when we return to competitive action again and I know, having spoken to a lot of the referees and officials, they’re excited to be back in action again.”

The “Late Hit” rule, under IIHF rule 153 is defined as “a late hit that constitute a body check to a skater who is in a vulnerable position because he no longer has control or possession of the puck and can be delivered to a skater who is either aware or unaware of the impending contact.”

One of the other change will impact goalies freezing the puck where there will be a stronger requirement for goaltenders to play the puck with their stick when they are not pressured by an opponent.

This is to prevent them freezing the puck and intentionally cause a stoppage of play and it will mean officials are required to implement a minor penalty to the goaltender if they have the opportunity to play the puck prior to being pressured by an attacking player, but instead intentionally cause a stoppage of play by freezing the puck.

The faceoff procedure sees a change from previous years where a centre would be ejected from taking the face-off if they didn’t take it correctly.

Instead they are assessed a warning and allowed to retake the face-off, but if there’s a secondary violation on the ensuing face-off, to the same team, a minor penalty is assessed.

The success of the face-offs will be determined by the ability of players and officials to communicate effectively.  Officials are also instructed to work with the players, but make them follow the guidelines of the face-off rules.

Hicks is confident the EIHL officials will execute these calls efficiently and reckons the pre-season games have given them the ideal opportunity to get used to the new rules.

He added: “Everyone on the team is fully aware of these changes, the officials have worked on them during a pre-season training camp, the coaches have had meetings and conference calls during the pre-season and everyone has practiced them in the games they’ve covered so far, so they’re already well versed in making those new calls if necessary.

“We’ve had ample opportunity to go through it carefully and with three weeks of pre-season games behind us, the team are ready for the season ahead.”