USA Hockey Magazine

August 2017

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AUGUST 2017 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM // 31 Ice Age THE NEW B e f o r e w e t a l k a b o u t the new rule that will change the way youth h o c k e y t e a m s k i l l p e n a l t i e s, l et 's b e g i n w i t h a b r i e f h i s t o r y lesson. Back in the 1930s, the M o n t r e a l C a n a d i e n s w e r e s t e a m r o l l i n g through the NHL thanks in part to a potent power play. In order to keep games from becoming lop- sided affairs, the league allowed teams that committed a penalty to ice the puck to relieve the pres- sure of the Habs' attack. The rule was soon adopted a t a l l l e ve l s o f p l ay, w i t h t h e exception of the upstart World H o c k e y A s s o c i a t i o n , w h i c h didn't allow short-handed teams to ice the puck. "It's never made any sense to me that a team can commit a foul and then the rules are changed to benefit them," said long-time USA Hockey coach Ben Smith. "There's no need to change the rules of the game just because somebody committed a foul. Keep playing the game the way it was meant to be played." W h i c h l e a d s u s t o Ju n e 1 3, 2017, when USA Hockey's board of directors voted to adopt a rule change that eliminates short- handed icing exceptions at the 14 & Under age levels. Now, if a team ices the puck while short-handed, it will result in a whistle followed by a defen- sive-zone faceoff. The team that commits an icing infraction will still be allowed to change players. The rule takes effect at the start of the 2017-18 season. The rationale behind the rule c h a n g e i s t h a t i t e n c o u r a g e s greater skill development for younger players who are in their prime development windows. Most coaches and development experts feel it will place a greater emphasis on puck possession, puck protection and play-making, as opposed to merely firing the puck down the ice. "You can go any rink in America on a Saturday morning and hear some of the parents in the stands screaming for kids to ice the puck during a penalty," Smith said. "It's just dumbing down the game to ask a kid to take the puck, which is so hard to get to begin with, and encouraging him to throw it away. It just goes against all develop- ment sense." It's a sentiment shared by those at the pinnacle of the game. " S k i l l d e v e l o p m e n t a n d p l a y- m a k i n g i s a n e m p h a s i s at the professional level and it should be an absolute priority at the youth levels, so I support USA Hockey's decision to change the rule," said Mike Sullivan, who led the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. "It will encourage kids to make more skill plays with the puck, and that will help develop their full potential as players." USA Hockey has been using t h i s m o d i f i e d p l a y i n g r u l e for more than 10 years at its National Player Development C a m p s . A c c o r d i n g t o t h o s e who have worked these camps, players quickly adapt and more short-handed scoring opportuni- ties are created by the play-mak- ing mindset that it nurtures. "Kids will adapt very quick- ly. That's been my experience, w h e t h e r i t 's a t o u r N a t i o n a l P l a y e r D e v e l o p m e n t C a m p s o r i n a h o u s e l e a g u e i n R e d L o d g e , M o n t . ," s a i d f o r m e r USA Hockey National Coach- in-Chief Al Bloomer. " T h e o n l y p e o p l e w h o w i l l have a challeng e adapting to the change will be the coaches and parents." Detractors claim the change will result in more whistles, which will make games last longer. It's an argument that doesn't hold water, according to data collected from nearly 200 games played under the modified rule. In fact, there were on average fewer than two additional stoppages per game due to this rule. In addition, studies have found that power-play goals didn't go up, but the number of short- handed tallies did as kids were forced to make a play with the puck rather than blindly fire it the length of the ice. Supporters feel this rule change is long overdue and could pave the way for other leagues and federa- tions to follow suit in the future. "Any part of our game that encourages puck possession rath- er than throwing the puck away is a tremendous opportunity to develop skill," Smith said. "This is going to encourage players to have to make plays with the puck. For me this rule is a clear-cut win for skill development." P Rule Change Promotes Skill Development By Encouraging Players To Hold Onto The Puck By Harry Thompson "It will encourage kids to make more skill plays with the puck, and that will help develop their full potential as players."

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