College hockey fans may be able to actually see the faces of their favorite players next season.
That’s because the coaches at the American Hockey Coaches Association heavily favor switching from the full facemasks currently worn by college hockey players to a three-quarter face shield.
University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead returned from last week’s convention in Naples, Fla., and said that was one of four focal points discussed by the coaches.
Whitehead is a member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee and the committee can implement changes for the upcoming season. They are able to do so every two years.
Whitehead also said the proposal to go to a four-on-four (skaters) format for overtime like the National Hockey League does, instead of five-on-five still used in college, is up in the air.
“I was surprised there wasn’t more support for the four-on-four overtime. We took a vote and it was roughly 50-50,” said Whitehead, who is a proponent of it.
“I love it. It creates more offense. The rules committee has a four S’s mandate: safety, scoring, skill and speed. Four-on-four hits all four of those things,” Whitehead said.
He said it is exciting for the fans and has been an overwhelming success in the NHL. It will also reduce the number of ties.
The NCAA Rules Committee sent out a survey on a variety of potential rule changes prior to the convention and those items were discussed at the convention.
At the end of the week, the committee will be sending out another survey for the coaches to complete before the rules committee meets again in June.
The rules committee will make a decision on those issues at their meeting in Indianapolis on June 6-8.
However, Whitehead pointed out that their recommendation on the three-quarter shield will have to be approved by the NCAA’s Committee of Competitive Safeguards.
The others won’t have to be approved by any other committees.
Whitehead likes the idea of going to the three-quarter shield for a number of reasons.
First, he said the players will have better peripheral vision, which could reduce the number of concussions.
“They won’t be losing the puck in their skates and looking down for it as much,” said Whitehead, noting that players are more vulnerable when they’re searching for the puck.
He also said players won’t be playing with as much reckless abandon and getting their sticks up.
“They won’t be diving to block as many shots,” added Whitehead. “It should promote skill and scoring and the eyes will still be protected which is why they went to the full facemasks in the first place.”
However, he did say that the jaw and teeth would be a little more vulnerable although players are required to wear mouthguards.
He also likes the idea that fans will be able to see the players’ faces if the three-quarter shield is implemented.
“We’re the only elite league in the world that doesn’t use the four-on-four overtime and at least a three-quarter shield,” said Whitehead.
Many leagues use a half-shield.
The other two primary topics, according to Whitehead, were the vague rules pertaining to pucks that glance in off skates and when the puck goes into a net after the net has lifted and dropped back onto its moorings.
On the puck-off-the-skate rule, Whitehead said the way the rule reads in college is “if the puck deflects in off a skate, it’s a goal as long as it wasn’t intentionally directed in.
“How can a referee know what the intent is? That’s too gray. We need more clarity,” said Whitehead. “If I had my way, all the goals kicked in would count as long as the player’s skate blade doesn’t leave the ice.”
“Our proposal is to follow the NHL rule which states that you can score a goal off your skate as long as there is no distinct kicking motion.” said Whitehead.
He said the straw vote was overwhelming in favor of the rule change.
As for the net coming off its mooring, the NCAA rule is that if the net is out of its proper position when the puck crosses the goal line, it is no goal.
According to the NCAA rulebook, “the goal frame is considered to be displaced if any portion of the goal frame is not in its proper position.”
In the Michigan State-Union NCAA tournament game, a Union player dislodged the net for a brief second as a shot from Michigan State’s Brock Shelgren was crossing the goal line.
The net immediately returned to its moorings but the goal was waved off.
“The NHL allows those, we don’t. That was clearly a good goal,” said Whitehead. “We should allow those and that is going to be the recommendation.”
Whitehead stressed that even though he has his opinions on the rule changes, he will adhere to the wishes of the coaches and and committee.