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College hockey players learn the hard way to vacate the ice promptly after warmups

Three teams were penalized last weekend for not being off the ice when the clock hit 23 minutes to game time.

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Colorado College head coach Mike Haviland (bottom right) talks with NCHC referees and linesmen during a stoppage in play in the second period of a 2021 hockey game against the UND Fighting Hawks in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — When pregame warmups come to an end, college hockey players go through their own personal routines.

For some, it's a little extra stretching on the ice. For others, it's snapping one or two final shots on net, trying to hit a target. And for one or two players on each team, it's a cat-and-mouse game of trying to be the last player off the ice.

But those routines may be changing.

College hockey officials have been directed to be stricter in getting players off the ice by the time the clock hits 23 minutes to game time.

Three teams were assessed minor penalties last weekend for not getting off the ice in time. Minnesota Duluth and Arizona State started their game Saturday at four-on-four after both teams were dinged for it. Minnesota State-Mankato, meanwhile, started its exhibition against Omaha shorthanded because of it.

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All of last weekend's penalties were called by National Collegiate Hockey Conference officials, though it was a nationwide directive.

This is not a new rule. It has been in the rulebook. But it's a new point of emphasis this season to enforce it.

UND coach Brad Berry said he addressed it with his players before Saturday's 5-1 exhibition win over Manitoba in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

"Believe me, we did," Berry said. "It was plain and clear. And I don't know how that happens, because we were notified at the NCHC head coaches meeting at media day that it was going to be called and it's going to be the letter of the law going forward. Before morning skate Saturday, we grabbed our guys, had a quick meeting with them and went over the different points."

There are four game protocols that are points of emphasis:

  • Players are not allowed to be on the ice before the start of pregame warmups. This is a rule the NCHC cracked down on a few years ago, but in other conferences, players were still going on the ice in sandals and street clothes to stickhandle and shoot pucks.
  • At the end of pregame warmups, players must leave the ice before the clock hits 23 minutes to game time. The buzzer sounds at the 24-minute mark as a one-minute warning to the players.
  • At the end of each period, players must take the most direct route to the locker room, instead of going to their goaltender. This is to eliminate players crossing paths.
  • At the start of each period, only players who are going to start the frame on the ice are allowed to go on the ice. Players who are starting the period on the bench are expected to proceed to their spots on the bench instead of taking a warmup lap or two.

These rules are being enforced for player safety reasons.

"At the end of the day, if you know that's going to be a standard that's going to be called, you've got to know," Berry said. "Going down a man early, without even stepping on the ice, that's tough. Obviously, if they're going to call it, we have to abide by it."

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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