SIJHL heads off checking trouble

Byron Maggrah has issued a pre-season heads-up.
The referee-in-chief for the Superior International Junior Hockey League has informed those wearing the striped shirts it is time to get tough on incidents of checking to the head by players when the league’s second season begins this Friday.
“There will be growing pains,” Maggrah admitted about instituting a tighter rein on head checking. “Because of the players getting bigger and faster, it’s getting more and more difficult to control how they get hit.
“But we did a good job of cutting down the amount of checking from behind we had. Now it’s time to focus on head checking,” he remarked.
Punishment for blows to the head will be broken down into four areas.
A minor penalty will be issued for accidental contact with another player’s head. Intentional acts of head checking will be met with a minor and a 10-minute misconduct, or a major and a game misconduct, depending on the referee’s discretion.
All cases of injury that result from head checking will carry an automatic major and game misconduct.
“You can check a guy legally and if the first point of contact is the head, you will be penalized,” said Maggrah.
The heightened attention on head checking is the result of a rule emphasis handed down by the SIJHL on the recommendation of the Canadian Hockey Association.
“[CHA] changes its rulebooks every two years,” noted Maggrah. “But during the in-between years, if a rule isn’t working or isn’t being interpreted right, a league can issue a rule emphasis.
“The move is the result of the number of concussions being reported [in Canadian amateur hockey] by the risk management unit of [the CHA].”
Other new rules include the mandatory use of earpieces in helmets for safety purposes and a fuller implementation of the fast face-off rule.
“We used the fast face-offs as needed last year,” said Maggrah. “But everyone saw how well it worked in the Olympics. This year, we want to use it all the time.
“We had a few isolated games that ran long although, on average, most games ran 2:10 or 2:15,” he noted. “But anytime you speed the game up, you can eliminate a lot of the crap that happens out there.”
Maggrah said the league’s coaches are a big reason rule additions and adjustments in the SIJHL have been effective to this point.
“The coaches have the biggest impact on the players, and they’re very good at bringing [rule information] back to their teams to implement.
“They’re the ones who make the rules, not the refs. We just enforce them.”