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College hockey: NCAA wants crackdown on late contact, facewashing, obstruction

The NCAA wants referees to clean up the after-the-whistle shenanigans in college hockey. The Rules Committee announced its points of emphasis for the 2009-10 season on Thursday, and at the top of the list was eliminating both contact after the wh...

Facewashing
Brian Lee (left) of the University of North Dakota and Minnesota's Ryan Flynn (right) facewash in 2007. Grand Forks Herald file photo

The NCAA wants referees to clean up the after-the-whistle shenanigans in college hockey.

The Rules Committee announced its points of emphasis for the 2009-10 season on Thursday, and at the top of the list was eliminating both contact after the whistle and facewashing, the act of sticking a glove in an opponent's face.

Facewashing is a common form of retaliation that doesn't draw penalties.

Hockey gloves, covered in perspiration, tend to smell awful. So players will skate up to an opponent, stick their palm in his face and let him take a whiff of the stench.

The Rules Committee, however, views this as a violation of the "grasping the facemask" rule. Planting an open hand in an opponents face should result in a minor penalty, it says.

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Pushing the facemask or moving the hand back-and-forth on it should result in a major penalty, and twisting or pulling on the mask should be a game disqualification under the excessive roughness category.

"The committee believes altercations after the whistle are a growing and disturbing trend," the NCAA said in a release. "Any contact to the head tends to escalate altercations. After reviewing numerous situations, the committee expressed its concern about student-athlete safety as well as the negative effect on the game's image."

The NCAA is allowed to change rules every two years. This is not one of those years, but the committee can suggest points of emphasis to officials.

The other points of emphasis were to continue protecting the puck carrier from obstruction and to strictly enforce no hitting from behind.

Protecting the puck carrier

Last year, the NCAA's big mandate was to do a better job protecting the puck carrier.

This was an effort to increase scoring chances and the excitement of the game by letting skilled players proceed without being hooked or held.

Midway through the year, however, multiple Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches said they felt that the referees had backed off on making those calls.

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The NCAA again addressed that rule this summer.

"As all levels of NCAA ice hockey enter the second season with the two-referee system," it writes, "the expectation of overall enforcement is higher."

The future

The Rules Committee also said it will consider several new rules next summer, when it can vote to make changes.

The main one is regarding ties. The NCAA wants to reduce or eliminate them and it is collecting written proposals from any schools.

The Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the WCHA women both began using shootouts for league play last season. Winners got extra points in the standings, but the results counted as a tie when the NCAA considered selecting its postseason tournament field.

The WCHA men have been resistant to using the shootout, which was OK'd by the NCAA last summer.

The NCAA also is considering using a hybrid-icing rule -- something schools are allowed to experiment with during exhibition games this season. Hybrid-icing is a form of touch-up icing, used in the NHL.

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Instead of racing toward the end boards to touch an iced puck, however, the referee will determine which player would get to the puck first, using the face-off dots as a reference point. If the attacking player is closer, icing will be waved off.

Briefly

- The final College Hockey America league postseason tournament will be held in Niagara, N.Y., the league announced today. The four-team CHA will disband after this season, with Niagara and Robert Morris joining Atlantic Hockey and Bemidji State joining the WCHA. Alabama-Huntsville has not found a home yet, but has applied to the CCHA.

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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