Rules Changes for Development

USA Hockey Examples

Rules govern the game and we all must play by them. Most rules of the game through history have come into play due to closing loopholes, shaping gameplay for entertainment, or safety.

We have written on the history of icing in the past.

A recent phenomenon is that national federations are changing rules of play with the goal of an increased level of player development. It’s a large reason why there is a divergence between what you see on TV and at a youth game at your local rink.

USA Hockey

For 2021-2025 there have been some key rule changes. All have been driven by a vision for the increased development of American players.

1) Penalty Length

  • Penalty lengths will be altered based on period length

If a period is 12 minutes or less = 1:00 minute penalty

If a period is 13-16 minutes = 1:30 minute penalty

If a period is 17+ minutes = 2 minute penalty

The new changes bring penalty time in line, proportionately, to game time. Also. By shortening the penalty length, players spend more time at 5v5, the ideal conditions for development.

2) Automatic Offsides

  • Offside will be automatically called if a puck is played into the offensive zone with a team in an offside’s position

Possession is the #1 predictor of winning. The end goal of this rule change is to have more possession and quality possession.

For example, a puck jumps a defender’s stick and a player now has a puck in the neutral zone. Many players would simply dump that puck back in to relieve their pressure and their team would have to tag up.

That is what USA hockey wants to get away from. If a player has to hold onto that puck, they have to make a decision and their teammates must aggressively become better puck support options to solve the situation.

On the flip side, the retrieving team will have fewer uncontested or lightly contested breakouts.

3) Short-handed icing

  • Icing will be called for all the youth levels

This has been a great success at the lower levels with USA hockey and will be applied to a greater audience. The goal is to encourage problem-solving rather than just chucking the puck down the ice mindlessly. The history of icing the puck.

Wrapping Up

For coaches, this leads to the discussion of putting constraints onto players. This could be a constraint to a small area game (e.g. can only use 1-touch finishes) or a rule change to a game (e.g. no forwards pass or cannot change unless your team has possession)

Here was my experience with the new rules so far:

What do you think of development-based rule changes? Let us know on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) or an email. Let’s keep the conversation going.


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