Rule Changes Aimed At Player Safety Start Young

6:11 PM, Oct 31, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - It was a hit that left Loui Eriksson concussed and John Scott suspended... It was also a hit that perfectly illustrates the changing rules in hockey geared toward player protection.

Hits like this were common place in the game just a few years ago. Scott, though, says the new direction is a good thing.

"I think it's going to take a couple of years to iron these hits out and get everyone used to the new rules, but I think it's a step in the right direction"

The good news for hockey parents is that these are rule changes that have, in many cases, first implemented at the youth level by USA Hockey. Some of the recent changes include moving the age where checking is introduced from 12 to 14 years old... And this season, any contact to the head is an automatic 2 minute penalty, plus a 10 minute misconduct.

Niagara University head coach Dave Burkholder says "the kids are so much bigger, stronger and faster"

and because of that reality, the rules had to change. "I think USA Hockey has been at the forefront and player safety is a major issue. It's a pretty popular sport across the country and if kids are getting hurt when they don't need to be then that's an issue."

Sabres coach Ron Rolston, who spent 7 seasons with the US development program, says that the rule changes are making the game safer and changing much of the culture of the game, but right now, the pro's are going through a learning curve.

"As the players come up, you know, you hope you see that change happening, I think you'll see that at our level as things get stricter. You know we've already seen how many guys suspended early on in the season."

And Sabre defenseman Henrik Tallinder says, from the safety perspective, the game is changing for the positive, starting with young kids..

"The earlier they can start teaching guys, the better off they'll be when they get older. That's just the bottom line of it."

Technology is also playing a part in this... while no helmet can prevent a concussion... Denser foams, and better sizing controls, are making equipment more protective, by keeping it in place on the player.

Recently the Great Skate teamed up with equipment manufacturer Bauer to put on this clinic at Niagara University to show young players and parents that safety equipment is not one size fits all, and it is important for protection and performance to have the gear that is the best fit for the player. "Fit is huge, you have to have the proper fit to have the proper protection" says Bauer Marketing rep Justin Bonitatibus.

And this season in the NHL, new equipment rules are changing the way even the pro's view the game. Rolston points out that "you know, all the players have to have visors that are coming into the league, so that's gonna change things. You hope that over the course of the next 5,6 years, you hope you're going to see some of those changes affect the game in a really positive way."

The reality is that hockey is a collision sport, so there will always be risk, but organizations like USA Hockey and the NHL are trying to find those areas where the risk can be reduced.












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