At the beginning of the season, which was only 3 weeks ago I might add, I noticed that the referees were cracking down on a lot of penalties, especially head checks. I actually made reference to it in my Games of the Week Recap for Sept. 17 and 18, and said that for all we know, it’s a directive from the OHA.
Well, since this past Thursday, September 25, everyone has noticed the dramatic increase in Playing Without a Helmet GRM62 penalties being called. In fact, all across the league, there has been 22 of them called since Thursday night. Everyone is complaining about it, saying it’s unnecessary and that it’s taking away from the game. I had someone ask me about it yesterday morning, asked why it’s being called, and commented that a lot of fans aren’t liking it, in fact they apparently complained to an OHA official in Welland Sun. night about it, they are getting up and leaving the games, and it’s making them not want to go to games in the first place.
The rule that’s being enforced, I’m sure a lot of you think it’s a new rule, but it’s not. I don’t know exactly, but it’s been part of the OHA rule book for a number of years. For the longest time, it was only enforced when there was a fight and either participant removed their helmet. I seem to recall that it used to be a 2 game suspension. Then they evolved it because players were getting creative with the rule and would either undo their own chinstraps or would undo each other’s and then the helmet would just come off during the fight. That’s when the OHA changed the rule and the chinstrap was not allowed to be undone for any reason. Again, the rule was mostly enforced when it came to fighting. It was also applicable when a player would lose his helmet during play and not leave the ice, as they are required. In most situations that I see, the players leave the ice immediately, but if able, they are allowed to retrieve their helmet and replace it properly and resume play. With the new enforcement, I’m not sure how this situation will be handled.
On October 15, 2013, the OHA released an Action Bulletin regarding the rule change about the Removal of Helmet Policy. This is what it said.
APPROVED PROPOSAL – The OHA Board of Directors approved an amendment to the current OHA Removal of the Helmet Policy which shall now read:
“Any player that undoes his chinstrap or removes his helmet (while on the ice), or undoes the chinstrap or removes the helmet of another player (while on the ice) at time during play, or at a stoppage in play shall be assessed a Gross Misconduct for removal of the helmet” – (GRM 62)
You can find the Action Bulletin here:
As it says, the rationale is for safety concerns. Head injuries are a big issue right now, especially in the hockey world, and the OHA, nor their members, ie. the teams, want to be liable if someone gets hurt because they didn’t have their helmet on properly.
The new enforcement of the rule is due to the Information Bulletin released on Friday.
The clarification of the policy sets out that it is applicable during warm-up, when exiting the ice at the end of a period and situations where the rule does NOT apply.
NOTE – (while on the ice) – includes, warm-up, during play, after stoppages in play, after the playing of the National Anthem, when entering the ice before the start of a period, when exiting the ice at the end of a period and when exiting the ice at the end of a game and/or overtime.
The following situations do not apply to the GRM62 Penalty. (All OHA officials have been advised same.)
REPAIRS ON THE BENCH – The OHA Helmet Removal Policy would not apply to a player on the bench as the OHA Policy relates to players while on the ice. The Hockey Canada rule book, as stated in the Policy covers activities on the bench.
GOALTENDER TILTING HIS MASK FOR A DRINK OF WATER – The Policy would not apply in the case of the goalkeeper tilting his mask/helmet for a drink of water, as the helmet was not removed, or the chinstrap (if applicable) was not undone. If the goalkeeper were to remove his mask to remove sweat from his face the Policy would also not be applicable.
A PLAYER BEING ATTENDED TO BY A TRAINER REMOVES HIS HELMET OR UNDOES HIS CHINSTRAP. – The Policy would not apply.
I don’t remember which rule book I read this in, but referees are authorized to call/issue a penalty up until both teams are in their dressing room after the game, which is why they can call this at the completion of game before/while the teams exit the ice.
I didn’t notice this Sun. night, but someone has told me that both Strathroy and LaSalle’s goalies asked the referee’s permission before removing their helmet for a minor adjustment or water or anything. Technically, under the above, the goalies are completely within their right to lift their mask for that purpose, but better to be safe than thrown out of a hockey game.
Also in the rules is about wearing your equipment properly. Seeing how our league allows visors, those that wear them must also wear a mouth guard. Those that wear a cage or full face shield are not required to wear a mouth guard. We all know there’s at least 1 player on every team who skates down the ice with their mouth guard sticking out, chewing on one end of it. The mouth guard is not effective if you’re not actually wearing it. It doesn’t get called very often, a total of 4 times so far this year, but if you’re not wearing your mouth guard properly, that’s a 10 min. misconduct for Equipment/Face Mask Incorrect, M14. You can get called for the same penalty if your pants have zippers and they’re not done up.
We also have the neck guard rule. When that came in, everyone thought it was stupid. Neck guards were only required in minor hockey, why would they have to wear it in Jr, was what I heard a lot. That rule came about in 2008 after a linesman, Kevin Brown, was slashed in the neck by a skate trying to break up a fight the previous year. After that incident, it was mandatory that all referees and linesmen wear neck guards. The following season, it was mandated that all players were to wear neck guards as well. Since this rule came in, I’ve seen many times where the neck guard comes undone and the player is skating down the ice with it not on, instead it’s stuck to the back of their sweater. Since you’re not allowed to play without a helmet on, I’ve often wondered why they’re allowed to play without their neck guard on properly. Perhaps with the new enforcement of the rules, they will now be required to leave the ice or receive a 10 min. misconduct for incorrect equipment, such as with the mouth guard. Interestingly, on Sun. night, Rockets centreman Brett Dalton removed himself from the ice before a faceoff because his neck guard wasn’t proper. I don’t know if the linesman mentioned it to him and that’s why he left.
The other rule that people are complaining about is the Warmup Violation, M100. This rule, which has been called 10 times this year so far, serves 2 purposes. The first is for touching the red line during warm up. As everyone knows, the teams are divided in their own end zones for warmup with the linesmen on the ice. Fun fact, the Rockets and the Nationals are one of the causes of this rule because in the late 90’s they had numerous fights during the warmup. After seeing this happen, the OHA brought in the rule that the linesmen are to be on the ice during warmup, with teams not being allowed on until the officials are on the ice, and you are not allowed to touch the red line.
Last year, the OHA expanded the rule and mandated National Anthem regulations. The 5 players on the ice must be on the blue line and the goalies must be in their crease and you can’t put your helmet on or skate around prior to the end of the anthem.
This is the OHA release for the rule.
I understand that the OHA received numerous complaints from fans of every league of every level over the years due to the disrespect that is shown towards the anthem and thus our flag, so that’s the reason for the new rule. It is our Nation’s song, the greatest Nation in the world, and the least the players could do is show some respect and stand still for approximately 2 minutes. I get the argument of them staying loose before the puck drop and swaying and moving their legs, which is completely fine. By bringing in this rule, they’ve curbed the players that would start skating around the ice, and banging their sticks on the ice, with 2 lines left to go in the song.
I grew up in the Pat ‘Whitey’ Stapleton era of the Rockets and Whitey believed that the players did not move at all during the National Anthem. In fact, the players were instructed not to move until their opponents did. They were taught to use this time to focus on their task at hand.
Below is a video taken from YouTube from the 1997-1998 season where the Strathroy Rockets and the Leamington Flyers, in old Leamington arena, had a National Anthem standoff. Once O’ Canada was completed, Strathroy did not move, and Leamington did not move. The referees skated around to each bench, and eventually they gave the Rockets a delay of game penalty, as the visitors are to move first, thinking that would get things moving, but it did not. They then gave the Flyers a delay of game penalty, thinking that would work and it didn’t. The Rockets were eventually forced to move because as the visiting team, you are required to challenge the home team to play, otherwise it’s a forfeit.
The big crack down on the rules is all for safety, which is the number one concern of the OHA. Eventually, the teams and the players will catch on and you’ll see less of it. Yes, right now there’s an influx of them, but that’s because it’s now being fully enforced and everyone is trying to figure out what they can and cannot do. I know a lot of you think it’s stupid, but think about it this way. The period has ended and the star player on your favourite team undoes his chin strap on his way off the ice. He catches a rut and falls, his helmet coming off and he smacks his head off the ice, sustaining a serious injury. Who do you think will be to blame?