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Standard of Play & Rule Emphasis – Restraining Fouls

Through the standard of rules enforcement, our game will continue to allow the opportunity for improved skill development and a more positive hockey environment for all participants. The mission of USA Hockey is clear; through this initiative a greater emphasis will be placed on skating, puck possession and proper use of the body to establish position and a competitive advantage.

The goal of the enforcement standard is to reduce restraining infractions in the game and not to remove legal body checking or competitive contact. A body check or using competitive contact/body position (competitive contact categories) to gain a competitive advantage over the opponent should not be penalized as long as it is performed within the rules. The principles of the continued enforcement standard include the following:

• The use of the stick will be limited to only playing the puck, and therefore the stick blade should be below the knees when involved in any physical engagement.

• The stick will not be allowed to in any way impede a player’s progress.

• The use of a free hand/arm will not be allowed to grab or impede a player’s progress.

• Players who use their physical skills and/or anticipation and have a positional advantage shall not lose that advantage as a result of illegal acts by the opponent.

• Players will be held accountable for acts of an intimidating or dangerous nature.

Enforcement Standard – These penalties are to be called with very strict enforcement.


A player cannot use their stick against an opponent’s body (puck
carrier or non-puck carrier) to gain a positional advantage. Examples

• Using the stick to tug or pull on the body, arms or hands of the opponent which causes the space between the players to diminish.

• Placing the stick in front of the opponent’s body and locking on – impeding the opponent’s progress or causing a loss of balance.

• Placing the stick on the hand/arm that takes away the ability for the opponent to pass or shoot the puck with a normal amount of force.


A player cannot use their stick on the legs or feet of an opponent in a manner that would cause a loss of balance or for them to trip or fall. Examples include:

• Placing the stick in front of the opponent’s legs for the purpose of impeding progress, even if on the ice, with no effort to legally play the puck.

• Placing the stick between the legs of the opponent (can opener/corkscrew) that causes a loss of balance or impedes the progress of the opponent.


A player cannot wrap their arms around an opponent or use a free hand to clutch, grab or hold the stick, jersey or body on the opponent in a manner that impedes their progress. Examples include:

• Wrapping one or both arms around the opponent along the boards in a manner that pins them against the boards and prevents them from playing the puck or skating.

• Grabbing the opponent’s body, stick or sweater with one or both hands.

• Using a free arm/hand to restrain or impede the opponent’s progress.


A player cannot use their body (“pick” or “block”) to impede the progress of an opponent with no effort to play the puck, maintain normal foot speed or established skating lane. Examples include:

• Intentionally physically engaging with an opponent who does not have possession or control of the puck.

• Using the body to establish a ”pick” or “block” that prevents an opponent from being able to chase a puck carrier.

• Reducing foot speed or changing an established skating lane for the purpose of impeding an opponent who is in pursuit of the puck.


The use of the stick will be limited to only playing the puck. Any stick contact, as a result of a slashing motion, to the hands/arms or body of the opponent will be strictly penalized. In addition, hard slashes to the upper portion of the stick (just below the hands) of an opponent, with no attempt to legally play the puck, shall also be penalized.


All USA Hockey members must demonstrate awareness and support for the application, spirit and the respect of the rules in order for continued improvement in the game of hockey. At the same time, it is important to remember that:

• Players are entitled to the ice they occupy as long as they are able to maintain their own foot speed and body position between opponent and puck.

• Players are allowed to physically engage with an opponent using their strength and balance as long as their primary focus is to gain possession of the puck.

For Casebook situations and interpretations that are specific to USA Hockey’s Standard of Play and Rule Emphasis initiative, please refer to Appendix VI of the Official Playing Rules Book.