by Nick Clark
In response to a pair of checking incidents that have left two high school hockey players hospitalized in the past month, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) has acted.
Behind the recommendation of its hockey advisory committee, the MSHSL board of directors approved stiffer penalties for three infractions, with the rule changes going into effect Jan. 16.
Checking from behind, which was previously called as a two-minute minor and a 10-minute misconduct, will now become a five-minute major penalty along with the 10-minute misconduct.
In addition, if officials deem the hit to be flagrant or it causes the player to crash headfirst into the boards or goal frame, the ensuing penalty will likely include a game disqualification.
Boarding, which is defined as a hit or trip that sends an opponent violently into the boards, has also become a five-minute major, regardless of intent. Previously, the penalty could be called as either a two-minute or five-minute penalty.
The same adjustment has been made to the contact to the head penalty, which now is an automatic five-minute major.
In all three changes, game officials can also disqualify the player responsible for the infraction, meaning he/she could not return to the current game being played, and would also miss his/her team’s next game.
MSHSL Associate Director Craig Perry addressed the rule changes in a Jan. 14 statement.
“Hockey is a great game, and when it is played the way it should be played, it should be a safe game,” said Perry, who oversees both boys and girls hockey. “The advisory committee’s recommendations and our board’s support of the action continue our efforts to protect the kids on the ice.”
The MSHSL requested and received permission from the National Federation of State High School Associations to alter the three penalties cited on an experimental basis for the remainder of the current boys and girls hockey seasons.
The movement behind the changes came after Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore Jack Jablonski and St. Croix Lutheran senior Jenna Privette were both severely injured just a week apart.
Jablonski ended up paralyzed, while Privette’s fate has yet to be determined. Both are currently recovering on the same floor at the Hennepin County Medical Center.