Youth hockey sees safer plays after rule changes

6:39 PM, Mar 6, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - As the Minnesota State Boys Hockey Tournament gets under way, last year's rule changes continue to be evaluated.

Nervousness after some high profile injuries occurred last season including Jack Jablonski's paralyzing check from behind. Hits like that sparked unprecedented mid-season rule changes in youth and high school hockey.

Cindy Cavazos' son is the backup goalie for the Marshall Tigers.

"I think at least for our team we've laid back a lot and there's a lot more nervousness about how we hit," she said.

A check from behind in high school is now an automatic 5-minute major, even if the other team scores. Disqualification is also possible.

"I think the game has changed. There's more of a respect factor than there was before," said Dough Johnson, publisher of Let's Play Hockey.

Johnson said if you really look at the hockey handbook those rules have actually always been there.

"It's just that maybe the referees over time have been reluctant to make those calls because they don't want to get the coaches upset. They don't want to get the players upset. They don't want to get the fans upset," Johnson said.

This season officials have been trained to not only watch for it, but also call it. Mitchell Huffman plays center for Eveleth-Gilbert. Despite the new rules he thinks the game is still fun and physical.

"We're just trying to not hit when their numbers are showing. Just backing off and stuff like that," Huffman said.

The stricter penalties for dangerous hits are still temporary. Minnesota hockey officials will consider making them permanent next month.

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