Monday, June 14, 2010

College Hockey Coaches Want to Fight the Good Fight

Late last week, a series of proposals approved for use in college hockey came to light. The proposals -- set for formal approval in July -- would change rules in college hockey that some say don't need to be changed.

It's not just fans who are upset about the proposed changes, which include teams not being allowed to ice the puck while shorthanded, and an increase in the minimum penalty for contact to the head. Some of the changes are agreeable. Others aren't.

According to WCHA media colleague Brad Elliott Schlossman, coaches are perturbed -- downright angry -- over the icing rule.

“I think it’s just a crime,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “I’ve been in college hockey for 18 years and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. It was almost unanimous for the entire coaching body. How can the committee overturn the entire coaching body? I think it’s sad, the lack of respect that the committee had for the coaching body.

“We didn’t spend any time even talking about it because it was so radical. We just voted 12-0 and moved on.”

Both Serratore and UND coach Dave Hakstol raised several concerns.

One is the safety issue. Since players are not allowed to change after an icing call, a player could be stuck on the ice for two or three minutes straight on a penalty kill.

Another concern is that the icing rule hasn’t been tried on an experimental basis to determine if it works. No North American hockey league uses it.

“It’s quite a shock,” Hakstol said. “I haven’t said much, but I’m going to speak my mind on this. I’m upset about us not having a say in it as a Division I coaching body. On a national basis, we were very strongly against it, if not unanimously against it.

“I’d be in favor of having some language that would allow us to experiment with a couple things in exhibition games. I’d like to be able to make some more educated decisions. But we haven’t tried these rules. They’ve never been tried at a high level. And if this change is made, it’s a two-year commitment.”

The NCAA is in a position to be a guinea pig for other hockey leagues, and that's not something the NCAA is known for doing.

The biggest issue here, to me, is what I brought up in my FanHouse piece.

What is this going to do to officiating?

Some fans have problems with the way games are called when they're late and close. That's not going to get any better when you add a tool to the game that will make power plays more dangerous and make power play goals more commonplace.

Officials will swallow their whistles, using the old addage of letting players decide the outcome of games, especially if power play percentages go up more than the five to ten percent I expect they will rise.

Schlossman heard from Hakstol on the contact to the head rule, too, but Hakstol -- who lost his captain to a concussion on a dirty, illegal, and embarrassingly mishandled hit in November -- didn't say anything notable there. Hakstol is right that we don't need to take hitting out of the game, and we have to be careful to do that.

Frankly, I'm more worried that we won't take the headshots out of the game, because mandating majors be called for those hits won't exactly encourage officials to call the penalty more often.

Monday, Schlossman posted on his blog about an effort to stop at least the icing rule from going into effect.

"We're trying to find out if, before it goes to the oversight committee, there's recourse or if there can be a re-vote based on the merits of the argument that we'd like to put forward," WCHA commish Bruce McLeod said. "Hopefully, we have some recourse."

McLeod said that if it can't be completely reversed, the commissioners are hoping that the icing rule can be changed to an experiment for exhibition games instead of a full-time basis for the next two seasons.

Schlossman reports that the coaches are also displeased about the rule that would allow a team that scores on a delayed penalty to still go on a power play. That rule is so dumb it barely merits mention.

Remember, these rules are put in place for two years if they are passed. It increases the urgency for the coaches to stop the bad ideas from being implemented.

That's a long time to be stuck with someone else's crappy ideas.

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