Ready, Set ……. Be Patient!

By now I’m sure most, if not all of you have heard about the new standard of rules enforcement that will be implemented by USA hockey this coming season. Perhaps you have already seen the DVD explaining various situational calls and non-calls as they pertain to obstruction and restraining penalties. If  I can recommend one thing to everyone involved in this great game – from coaches to parents to players to referees, it’s to be PATIENT.

Coaches – regardless of the level you are coaching this season, you may want to have a “patience” button sewed onto your sleeves during games because trust me, you will need it! Referees have been instructed to call ALL obstruction or restraining type penalties. This will no doubt slow down many games as players adapt to the new standards and countless penalties are called. In truth though, coaches must realize how crucial they are to the ultimate success of this initiative. Why? Because the onus is on you to teach your players to keep their sticks down and to hold their skating lane instead of impeding their opponents forward progress by using their free hand or stick on them. I encourage you to reinforce these points but using as many scrimmages and tight man on man drills as possible. In these drills, stress the importance of both using the stick effectively to take puck possession away from opponents and using their bodies to battle for pucks - but only on players who actually have the puck! Gone are the days where players could use their stick or free hand to hook or latch on to a player to slow them down – commonly referred to as “waterskiing”.  Teach them that they can no longer take their man to the net using body contact to prevent an opponent from getting there – regardless of the fact that this is the way your dad, you and now your child was always taught. As you are so often told to do, set an example. If you’re endlessly berating referees about calls, what do you think your players will do?

Parents – I suggest you take the time to view the USA Hockey DVD as teams have been encouraged to share the new rule standards with both you and the players. Besides making you look foolish, it will serve you no purpose to scream and yell at the referees – this will also more often than not embarrass your child. They will simply be doing what they have been given a strict mandate to do which is to enforce the obstruction standard and allow the game to flow as it should – without clutching,grabbing,hooking, holding and interfering.

 

Any true hockey fan appreciates the swift skating and puckhandling that takes place in a game. At first there will be an inordinate amount of penalties and more than likely very few five-on-five situations. Do your best to embrace the changes and understand that in the end the games will soon be that much more exciting. Look at the NHL for instance. What many thought was a painful process in the beginning has now given you an even more exciting sport to watch.

Players – you must realize that referees are not “out to get you” in calling so many more penalties. Make every effort to keep that stick down and your hands – especially your free hand, to yourselves. Use those skills that you work so hard on every day to improve. Be creative in your thinking and puckhandling and be mindful of how exciting the game will ultimately be.

Referees – you will need to be patient also, especially with the older players – probably bantam and higher. Don’t actively look for penalties, let them happen and wherever possible, take the time to explain to players why you called a restraining or obstruction penalty on them. Tell them they need to keep their feet moving or free hand away from impeding their opponent. You can also talk to them during the play using such terms as “move you feet” and “watch the free hand”.

The people at USA Hockey are to be commended for implementing this standard – not only to enhance the free flow of the game but also players safety. The DVD they have produced which I spoke of earlier is very well done and informative.

Lets face it folks, this process is going to be a big adjustment for everyone involved. Embrace it and above all, remember the old cliché that patience is a virtue!       







 
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