ST. PAUL, Minn. - The movement to make hockey a safer sport for players is gaining momentum after the Minnesota Hockey Board of Directors voted unanimously at its winter board meeting to strengthen penalties issued to players for boarding and checking-from-behind infractions.
Beginning Wednesday, January 25, the penalty for boarding and checking-from-behind will be a minimum five minute major penalty. The new rule will cover all Minnesota Hockey sanctioned games played until July 31, 2012. After that date the changes will be reviewed by the Minnesota Hockey Board of Directors.
The new penalties apply for all levels of youth hockey from squirts and up.
"Player safety is and always will be the highest priority of Minnesota Hockey," said Dave Margenau, President of Minnesota Hockey, in a written statement. "However, as important as the rule change is, it is equally vital that the culture of hockey change to eliminate the intimidation and illegal hits. Officials must call all illegal play and their calls must be supported by coaches, parents and players."
Minnesota Hockey pledges that it will work with member community associations, coaches, and referees to ensure other existing rules continue to be enforced and that the rule changes will be enforced with zero tolerance. The state's governing hockey body will also continue providing ongoing education regarding proper hockey techniques, rules and regulations.
"Referees for the youth games take their role of ensuring safe and fair play seriously," said Eric Olson, Minnesota Hockey Referee in Chief. "These rule changes will be called with zero tolerance."
Minnesota Hockey's announcement follows a similar crackdown on penalties involving hitting from behind announced January 14 by the Minnesota State High School League. That policy change followed a hit from behind that left Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore Jack Jablonski paralyzed.
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