Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play & Respect
USA Hockey is committed to creating a safe and fair environment for all participants. Respect for the game, opponents, coaches and officials is a critical part of the environment that is created and it covers several different aspects of sportsmanship and fair play. This initiative will encourage a change in culture as to what is considered to be acceptable/unacceptable body checking and competitive contact at all levels of play.
The following is not designed to replace our current rules/ definitions, but instead is intended to clarify and update the existing rules/definitions to emphasize the key points to more clearly outline what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Video examples can be found online at usahockey.com/ declaration. Please review the materials thoroughly so you can play a positive role in making our game safer.
Competitive Contact – competitive contact is body contact between two or more skaters who are in the immediate vicinity of the puck and who are in the normal process of playing the puck. These skaters are reasonably allowed to lean into each other provided possession of the puck remains the sole object of the contact. Competitive contact is encouraged in all age classifications of play within USA Hockey and provides the foundation for the skills necessary to advance to Body Checking classifications. Acceptable examples of competitive contact include:
Angling is a legal defensive skill used to direct/control the puck carrier to an area that closes the gap and creates an opening that is too small for the puck carrier.
Physical Engagement is when two players who are in pursuit of the puck are allowed to reasonably lean into each other provided that possession of the puck remains the sole objective of the two players.
Collisions occur when players are allowed to maintain their established position on the ice. A player shall not be penalized if the intention is to play the puck and in so doing causes a collision with an opponent. No player is required to move out of the way of an oncoming player to avoid an impact.
A body check represents intentional physical contact, from the front, diagonally from the front or straight from the side, by a skater to an opponent who is in control of the puck. The opposing player’s objective is to gain possession of the puck with a legal body check and NOT to punish or intimidate an opponent.
Legitimate body checking must be done only with the trunk of the body (hips and shoulders) and must be above the opponent’s knees and at or below the opponent’s shoulders. The use of the hands, forearm, stick or elbow in delivering a body check is unacceptable and not within the guidelines of a legal body check.
The primary focus of a body check is to gain possession of the puck and proper body checking technique starts with stick on puck, therefore the stick blade of the player delivering the check must be below the knees.
USA Hockey reminds coaches and players that these requirements are the responsibility of the player delivering the body check. Under no circumstance is it acceptable to deliver a body check to a vulnerable or defenseless opponent, an opponent who is not in control of the puck or to use the hands, stick, forearm or elbow in delivering a check to an opponent.
Vulnerable or Defenseless – a skater is considered to be in a vulnerable or defenseless position when unaware, unprepared, or unsuspecting of an impending hit.
Infractions that occur as a result of a body check delivered to a vulnerable or defenseless player must be penalized under the boarding, charging, checking from behind, head contact or roughing rules. When done in a dangerous, careless or reckless (unacceptable) manner where the player delivering the check has made no effort to play the puck, the major plus game misconduct or match penalty provisions of these rules must be assessed.
When two or more players are physically engaged for control of the puck along the boards, they are considered to be vulnerable or defenseless. Any body check delivered by a skater to an opponent who is physically engaged with another skater is considered dangerous, careless or reckless (unacceptable) and must be penalized accordingly.
Late Avoidable Body Check – any avoidable check delivered to a player who is no longer in control of the puck. An avoidable check is when the player delivering the check has an opportunity to avoid contact or minimize contact, once it is realized the opponent no longer has control of the puck.
The concept of “finishing the check” is an unacceptable action as it is one that is meant to intimidate or punish the opponent with no intent to gain possession of the puck. The responsibility is on the player delivering the check to avoid forceful contact (minimize impact) to a vulnerable or defenseless player who is no longer in control of the puck.
COMPETITIVE CONTACT CATEGORY
Non-check hockey does not mean no contact and the Competitive Contact Category game can be very physical. USA Hockey strongly encourages legal competitive contact to occur in all age classifications as part of the skill progression that teaches legal body checking.
When determining whether a body check has occurred, the official must focus on whether the player is attempting to play the puck and whether there is any overt hip, shoulder or forearm action used to initiate contact and separate the opponent from the puck.
Legal competitive contact occurs when players are focused on gaining possession of the puck and are simply maintaining legally established body position. This most often occurs when two players are physically engaged in front of the goal or along the boards.
Legal competitive contact also commonly occurs when a player has established an angle on the opponent and closes the gap to create an opening that is too small for the puck carrier. Additional acceptable forms of competitive contact include:
• A skater is entitled to the ice they occupy so long as they maintain their skating speed and body position between an opponent and the loose puck.
• A skater is entitled to stand their ground and is not required to move if an opponent wishes to skate through that area of the ice.
• A skater may block an opponent so long as they are in front of the opponent and moving in the same direction.
• A skater can use their body position to force an opponent to take a less direct route to the puck, so long as they do not use a hand or arm to hold or block the opponent.
BODY CHECKING CATEGORY
It is USA Hockey’s intent to create a safe environment for players to be able to develop their skills – including body checking in age appropriate classifications – while also being able to physically compete within the rules.
A player delivering a check to a vulnerable or defenseless player, who is not in control of the puck, will be assessed a penalty for roughing. Officials are to pay particular attention to these examples when applying this rule. These are intended as a guide and include, but are not limited to, the following:
• A player who is dangerous, careless or reckless (unacceptable) in delivering a check.
• A player who anticipates an opponent gaining possession or control of the puck but who makes contact with the opponent before possession or control occurs.
• A player who delivers a late avoidable check to an opponent who has released a shot or pass and is no longer in control of the puck.
• The use of the hands, forearm, stick or elbow in delivering a body check OR making contact with the opponent after the whistle. If contact is made above the shoulders, this action must be penalized as head contact. This includes any contact that occurs as part of a scrum situation after play has been stopped.
• Two skaters who use competitive contact for position as they skate to a loose puck are within their rights to do so, unless one uses their stick, arm, or skates to obstruct the opponent’s ability to skate to the puck.
A bench minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed to any team whose players or team officials commit the following actions while on the players’ bench:
• Banging the boards with a stick or other object, including skates or arms, after a body check regardless as to whether the check is being penalized. It is deemed to be unsportsmanlike conduct and should be penalized when done as a means of escalating dangerous and/or unnecessary physical play where there is no intent to legally gain possession of the puck.
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.
Coaches are expected to teach proper skills and hold their players accountable for illegal and dangerous actions, regardless as to whether they are properly penalized, or not.
Parents are expected to support the decisions of the officials and support the coaches in teaching the proper skills in a safe and positive environment.
Officials shall enforce a strict penalty standard according to the guidelines that have been established.
Players are expected to compete within the playing rules.
Administrators are expected to hold players, coaches, officials and parents accountable for their actions in an effort to promote a safe and positive environment for all participants.
All members of USA Hockey share an equal responsibility to ensure the integrity of the game is upheld. The onus to incorporate change is not only on the officials, but also on administrators, coaches, parents and players, as well.