(Two notes about above video. 1) all examples are penalties. 2) This video was published before Hockey Canada made body checking illegal at all levels below A3. Therefore, the statement "no body checking at Peewee or below and female hockey" is not correct. There is no body checking at Peewee or below, female hockey or any level of A3.)
By Kevin Klein
This past week I paid extra-close attention to the complaints of parents and coaches during some minor hockey games to see what rules needed to be better explained and understood. The winner was “body contact” which in minor hockey is grossly misunderstood, given the two games I watched.
First let’s take a look at the wording of the rule — Rule 6.2(b):
In divisions of peewee and below and female hockey, as well as all levels of A3 a minor penalty or, at the discretion of the referee, a major penalty and a game misconduct shall be assessed any player who, in the opinion of the referee, intentionally body checks, bumps, shoves or pushes any opposing player. If a player is injured, a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty must be assessed.
It is important to point out that in the wording above and in many rule descriptions you will see “in the opinion of the referee.” This is a key statement that we should all be aware of as the referee is often less than 20 feet from most penalties. The rest of us, including coaches, are much farther away and watching the puck or the play, not the players specifically.
Officials should be watching the players from the shoulder up, which will allow for an official to see more body movement thus more infractions. Coaches and fans are simply watching the play. They may see only the end of a certain play — a player falls to the ice and to them it must have been body contact or from their vantage point it appeared to be body contact. They fail to see what led to the player actually falling. There are occasions when two players will collide along the boards and one player may be a little bigger. Then you hear cries for a penalty. But if you read the rule — “intentionally body checks, bumps, shoves or pushes any opposing player” — the key word is “intentionally.”
Being an official can be very difficult, given you are required to make a quick judgment of a player’s actions, determining if it was indeed intentional. At the peewee and lower levels, I often see kids skating with their heads down, both offensively and defensively. This action may result in a collision. The question then becomes, “Was it intentional?” You need to make that judgment, for example if a player stops and makes a stance that disrupts forward movement that may very well be Body Checking.
When Body Contact occurs it may require a different penalty to be called. For example; when the play stops in front of the net — kids seem to automatically want to push and shove because that’s what they do in the NHL, and many officials let this happen all game. That action can result in various infractions that should be assessed. Are you assessing penalties in this case? You need to assess them early in the game so players learn.
Another is checking From Behind, I see many officials assess the lesser penalty, why? As officials we are responsible for the safety of players. Checking from Behind is a dangerous check and it does happen in the no contact divisions. Make the right call, be confident with your decision.
Here's a video put together by the Saskatchewan Hockey Association with Hockey Canada. It is worth taking the time to watch. The more we all understand the rules, the better the experience will be for everybody including the officials. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZnMIOqumOE
As with any penalty, there is the risk interference can be missed by an official … it happens. Please follow me on Twitter @behindwhistle for regular updates on rules and minor hockey news.
Let’s keep hockey fun and SAFE for everyone!
Kevin Klein has been an official for more than 15 years, he is currently Referee in Chief for FGNHA. Follow him on twitter @Behindwhistle