begin with one of the most serious penalties in the game today – head
||This infraction can now either be called Head
Checking or Elbowing. If the referee feels that the player
intentionally went for the head, it can result in a game
|The "clean shoulder check to the head" is
no longer allowed in minor hockey and will be penalized severely.
who has been involved in hockey over the last decade has witnessed an
ever-increasing number of concussions. There may well have been a lot of
concussions in the past, but people today are becoming more educated about
the problem and are able to notice a concussion when it occurs.
order to understand the seriousness of this injury, let us examine exactly
what happens when a concussion occurs.
“The brain is composed of soft, delicate structures
that lie within the rigid skull. Surrounding the brain is a tough,
leathery outer covering called the dura (door-a). Within the brain are
(cranial) nerves that are responsible for many activities, such as eye
opening, facial movements, speech and hearing. These nerves carry and
receive messages that allow the person to think and function normally.
There are also centers that control level of consciousness and vital
activities, such as breathing. The brain is cushioned by blood and spinal
fluid. There is very little extra room within the skull cavity.
An injury to the head causes the brain to bounce
against the rigid bone of the skull. This force may cause a tearing or
twisting of the structures and blood vessels of the brain, which results
in a breakdown of the normal flow of messages within the brain. The damage
to the brain generally is found deep within the brain tissue. Because of
this damage, the normal functions of the brain signals are interrupted
have all heard of professional hockey players being sidelined for weeks,
months, and even life as a result of concussions.
For example, Brett Lindros was forced to quit hockey because of too
many concussions. The doctors feared that another traumatic blow to the
head could kill him, so Brett did the wise thing and quit hockey.
all must remember that “LIFE IS
BIGGER THAN HOCKEY”. This is something that is hard to take for a
person for whom hockey has been part of his entire life.
Lindros, Brett’s older brother, is one of the most recent major athletes
to have serious concussion problems that sidelined him for an entire
season. He has had several concussions in his career, right from Junior
hockey to the NHL. The New
York Rangers signed Lindros during the 2002-2003 season, although it was
risky because one more blow to the head and his hockey career is over.
the 2000-01 playoffs there was a violent elbow thrown by Tie Domi on Scott
Niedermayer knocking him unconscious. Tie Domi received a 10 game
suspension for his actions and he apologized for his thoughtless act,
however the damage was done.
are many arguments about the ‘Heat of the Moment’ taking over, where a
player sees red or is so pumped up and into the game that aggression takes
over, however if the game of hockey is going to be cleaned up and players
are going to learn to respect each other then the ‘Heat of the Moment’
argument will have to be thrown out the door.
‘Heat of the Moment’ argument will be addressed a lot in this
publication. Many problems in minor hockey today are the result of
negative emotional outbursts. A player is upset with a penalty call, so he
argues with the referee and gets misconduct on top of everything else.
Someone else takes a vicious swing at an opponent’s head in retaliation
to a hard hit. The list is endless. In fact, things that generate negative
emotional responses have to be minimized in hockey before the image of
this great sport is further damaged. Parents and coaches must accept the
fact that they have a lot to do with creating ‘heat of the moment’
MINOR HOCKEY’S SOLUTION
hockey associations around the continent have taken steps to reduce or
eliminate this ever-increasing problem of head injuries and concussions by
introducing a rule that will hopefully go a long way to cleaning up the
are being advised to clamp down on deliberate blows to the head, adopting
a policy that treats this infraction in the same manner as they treat
hitting from behind.
just as there are still checks from behind in almost every game, there
will still be checks thrown at the head in almost every game until the
players start to respect their opponent’s well being.
Canadian Hockey Association, for example, has implemented a Checking to
the Head rule that is designed to punish players who contact an
opponent’s head with a check, elbow, fist or any other part of their
body. Players who are
penalized for Checking to the Head will be assessed with one of the
following three options:
Minor penalty plus a Misconduct
Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct
that you know what a player can be assessed for committing a Check to the
Head, what exactly qualifies as a Check to the Head? The following
guidelines will help you get a feeling for what referees look for when
deciding whether a player’s action should be deemed as a Check to the
Head penalty, or if a roughing, elbowing, or charging penalty should be
impact to an opponent’s head will still be assessed as a penalty,
although the penalty will not be assessed as a Check to the Head.
It will, instead, be called elbowing, roughing or charging.
The following are three examples of situations that would fall
under the Minimal Impact definition.
THE BY-PRODUCT RULE
a forward is skating into the attacking zone along the boards a defenseman
skates towards him and uses his fists to hit his opponent in the chest.
As he hits the opponent his fists ride up the player’s chest and
contact the head. The head snaps back, causing the player to fall to the
would be called a roughing penalty because there was no intent to go for
the head; it was a byproduct of the original hit.
There was also very little impact to the head as the brunt of the
hit went to the chest area. Always keep in mind the byproduct rule. If the
contact with the head is a result of original contact elsewhere on the
body, it will not be called head checking. This is an important factor to
consider. A first contact with the shoulder may be slight and hardly
detectable to the onlooker, but the referee may be in a perfect position
to see it.
THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION RULE
occurs quite often throughout a game. Two players are skating down the ice
beside each other. As they are skating and jostling, one player may hook
the other in an attempt to slow him down.
Naturally the player being hooked gets upset and throws an elbow or
a punch at the head of the player hooking him. Contact with the head is
made. This may seem to appear to be a clear example of head checking.
should not be called Checking to the Head because the player throwing the
elbow or punch was not propelling himself at the other player. In other
words, he wasn’t going in the opposite direction. He was skating in the
same direction as his opponent and therefore this would either be called
an elbow or a roughing penalty.
‘opposite direction rule’ is an important one to remember if you are a
referee. It is also an important one to remember as a player, coach or
parent. The contact to the head may be quite severe, but if the person
initiating the contact was not skating in the opposite direction, and was
not “propelling himself” at his opponent, it should not be called a
Head Check. Even though, on the surface, this may certainly look as if it
was a check to the head, it is not the kind of action which would warrant
a game ejection.
THE PUNCHING RULE
of the more common situations whereby contact to the head occurs is after
the whistle when players are gathered in front of the net or along the
boards. Sometimes players will exchange punches to the head of each
other. Strictly speaking, this is also contact to the head.
should be called “Roughing”, because
a check is not being thrown; a punch is!
Unless there is motion, such as a back-checking forward who skates
into a player after the whistle and punches him in the head, there will
not likely be any Checking to the Head penalty assessed. Roughing will
most often be the call when a punch lands on a player’s head area.
Impact to an opponent’s head means that a greater degree of violence was
used in the contact with the head but no injury was a result of this
impact or contact to the head. This
type of action would me more likely to incur a “Minor penalty plus a
MATTER OF INTENT
that Chris Draper is battling for the puck in the corner and Darcy Tucker
sees a perfect opportunity to throw a check.
Tucker is coming from across the ice and Draper is now bent over
with his head exposed (side of his body against the boards and head at the
top of the board height). Tucker
goes directly for Draper’s head instead of throwing a check to the upper
body of Draper. Tucker even
used his shoulder to make the check, but this would still be classified as
a Check to the Head under the current definition. In the “old days”
this would be called a clean check because it was done with the shoulder.
Nevertheless, minor hockey officials have noticed that it doesn’t matter
what part of the body strikes a head, an injury can be just as severe
though Tucker threw a check with his shoulder he did so with obvious
intent to go for his opponent’s head.
The emphasis of the rule is to protect the head, and therefore this
would be a perfect example of a moderate impact situation in which to
assess a Minor + Misconduct to Tucker.
This will also be a way for the referee to show the teams that
going for an opponent’s head will not be tolerated. Remember that this
new rule eliminates the old “clean check to the head with your
shoulder” philosophy. There is no such thing as a clean check to the
head any more, so you better get used to it. Of course, if Tucker had hit
Draper’s shoulder, and then bounced up and hit his head, there may not
have been any call on the play. It is the intent that matters the most in
Severe Impact would encompass a high degree of
violence and force to an opponent’s head with an obvious intent on the
part of the player doing the hitting.
Regardless of whether or not there is any injury, a Major + Game
Misconduct, or a Match penalty should be assessed if this type of
infraction occurs in a minor hockey game anywhere in Canada and the United
Imagine that Eric Lindros has the puck and is skating
down the boards. When he
reaches the attacking zone he starts to cut across the ice into the slot
area (between hash-marks) but Scott Stevens (defenseman of the other team)
sees Lindros cutting across the ice. Stevens starts to skate across the
ice in the hopes of hitting Lindros as he makes his move into the slot.
Stevens is now skating towards Lindros, in the opposite direction,
and intentionally throws an elbow to the head of Lindros sending him down
to the ice and in a daze. Lindros is clearly injured on the play and is unable to get
up on his own strength.
Since there was a severe impact to Lindros’ head,a
Major + Game Misconduct would be assessed.
On top of this, if the referee feels that Stevens was intentionally
trying to injure Lindros, then this penalty may be upgraded to a Match
penalty. The fact that
Lindros is injured and unable to get up would tend to sway the referee to
move towards the more severe penalty.
Not only is the referee protecting further players from Stevens, he
is also protecting himself from repercussions for not calling the
appropriate penalty. A senior, experienced referee will not assess the
match penalty immediately. He would skate over to see the injured player
to determine the extent of the injury. To upgrade to a match penalty can
have very serious consequences on a hockey player. However, a referee
should never allow compassion to interfere with his judgment. Even if an
injury doesn’t occur, if the referee is convinced that the player was
attempting to injure his opponent, a match penalty should be issued as a
deterrent to future similar infractions. Senior referees soon learn that
there is no need to “feel sorry” for players who wish to play outside
of the rules.