2024 NCAA Rules Committee Review

Earlier this month, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Committee had their yearly rules meeting in Naples, Florida. Multiple proposals were voted on and we now know what will likely be in place going into next season. Committee recommendations are subject to final approval before being installed for the upcoming season.

As per usual, the committee continued to focus on increased player safety, especially when it comes to head contact and hitting from behind. The committee approved a set of rules for head contact that require an automatic game misconduct or disqualification for intentional hits in addition to the already existing major penalty. Officials now also have the option to assess only a minor penalty for head contact deemed inadvertent. Leaving the intent up to officials is where this change gets tricky. More options for officials are always better in my opinion, but intent is so hard to read even for NHL officials, let alone Hockey East ones.

Providing the officials with more options for calls seemed like a major focal point. Hitting from behind can now be reviewed for any of the possible disciplinary outcomes by officials (minor, majors with or without game misconducts, and disqualification). In fact, all major penalties can now be reviewed and downgraded to a minor or no penalty. After watching officials struggle with the all-or-nothing penalty situation currently in place, this change is very welcome.

The NCAA also made moves to align its rule book more with that of the NHL on some fronts. The “and-one” rule that existed on delayed penalties, in which a team would still be awarded a powerplay if they scored on a delayed penalty call, has been removed after arguably being in place for far too long. Scoring on a delayed penalty will now nullify the penalty. There will also be an implementation of the NHL’s continuation rule: Plays blown dead early by referees (usually due to losing line-of-sight on the puck) can still result in a goal if the initial movement of the puck before the whistle carried it into the net. Hand passes have also been changed to remove the language about the pass needing to be deliberate. More moves to walk in the footsteps of the NHL rulebook will continue to make the leap to The Show easier for players.

In true NCAA fashion there are still some rules approved that leave us scratching our heads. High sticking of the puck will now only be called in instances where the stick makes contact with the puck over the skater’s shoulder height, instead of the previously used 4 feet (the crossbar height, for those who like visual aids). In open ice scenarios this seems like a good move, making it easier for referees to determine infractions at live speed. Where this gets weird is the fact that it also applies to goals. Taller players in the net front will now have a significant advantage being able to redirect pucks over the cage itself. In my opinion, the previous rule adhering to the 4 feet mark worked fine here, as the net provides the point of reference.

Another strange rule is the addition of mandatory shootouts following 3-on-3 overtime where the game remains tied. Despite now mandating a shootout to determine a winner of the game, these shootouts will still not be counted in tournament consideration. It seems odd to mandate something that is essentially useless. Sure, conferences use shootouts to determine their standings sometimes, but the question remains why not leave this up to conferences themselves?

A couple smaller quality of life rules also went through. This includes the ability for conference to appeal disqualifications with the secretary-rules editor and coordinator of officials. The wording on women’s hitting rules was slightly modified, but keeps the exact same idea. There will no longer be automatic reviews for OT goals either. This will hopefully stop the blight of walk-off moments being ruined by 2 minutes of refs hunching over a screen before any real celebration can happen. Coaches can still challenge goals if they believe something is worth reviewing, but hopefully this cuts down on unnecessary reviews where the spotlight should be firmly on the players.

Overall, no massive changes this year. However, keep an eye out for how the increased range of penalty options and ability to tip pucks over the crossbar play out during the season. Tall, physical lineups could especially benefit from both (I’m looking at you, Providence).

As always, go Huskies!