Hockey Canada: no tolerance for hits to head

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Julia Parrish,

After a rise in head injuries has been attributed to declining registration in minor hockey in Canada, the game’s governing body voted unanimously to change the penalties for shots to the head. Now, any contact with another player’s head in the game is illegal.

The approximately 400 delegates at Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting voted in favour of the new rules, which will come into effect in the 2011-2012 season.

The changes are as follows:

In female and minor hockey: a two minute penalty for accidental contact with another player’s head, neck or face with a stick,any part of their body or equipment. The penalty is doubled for intentional head contact.
In junior and senior hockey: either a minor and a misconduct, or a major and a game misconduct based on the degree of violence of a hit. The decision is up to the referee; however a major and a game misconduct penalty will be given if a player is injured.
Players will be removed from the game if they intentionally try to harm or harm another player.
This is not the first time hockey’s governing body has attempted to tackle this same issue. Hockey Canada first implemented a rule for checking to the head during the 2004-2005 season, but had to adjust it after the number of concussions due to on-ice contact spiked.

This weekend’s decision is an answer to many Edmonton hockey parents’ prayers.

“It is something that has to be taken care of,” hockey dad and coach Bill Mitchell said. “They [have to] hit lower and keep their elbows down.”

“There’s always some kids in hockey that don’t want to do the right thing,” hockey mom Linda Borschnick said. “You do worry about your kid.”

Hockey Canada will distribute videos to educate players, coaches, referees and parents on the new rules for the coming season.

With files from Darcy Seaton