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NCAA mandates rule enforcement initiative

Steve McJannet

Oct. 15, 2004

By Lindsey Mechalik
LSSU Sports Information student assistant

Throughout the last few decades, the world of hockey has developed a "let them play" attitude regarding the rule enforcement. This year the NCAA has taken the initiative to ask for a greater enforcement of the rules that were previously in place. The issue mainly deals with hooking, holding, and interference.

The NCAA wants to bring the game of hockey back to a point where more scoring can occur. There are no new rules, rather the NCAA is asking for stricter enforcement of the current rule book.

Tom Anastos, commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, commented on what he hopes hockey will gain from the new enforcement.

"The rules have evolved over the years to become more liberal," Anastos said. "We felt it was time to take a much tighter and firmer stance on their enforcement. Players have been able to get away with a lot more in the areas of holding, hooking, and interference. We watched a lot of film and game tapes which showed we are allowing too much to happen in those three areas. We have decided that we have to change that. It is having a net negative impact on the quality of the game. We hope it creates some space for some creativity, speed, ingenuity, spontaneity and all of those things that make the game great."

In order to create a new awareness across the board, CCHA officials were educated on the new expectations.

"All officials are trained in the same manner," Anastos said. "This (the new enforcement) is no different. We are trying to provide very clear examples of what the expectations of everyone are. I think it is important to realize that this is not an officiating initiative. Rather, it is about the rules and how they affect everyone involved including the officials, players, and coaches. We aren't training officials any differently than before. We are using video. We have supervisors who attend games and provide feedback. The officials get video that they are asked to review and do self-appraisals on after games. We will have ongoing dialogue with them as the season goes on. They [the officials] know that this is something we are very committed to. It is something that we feel very strongly about. They are committed to executing the plan."

CCHA players will have to make the biggest changes. The CCHA is working with the 12 coaches to make sure all teams are properly informed.

"The coaches will take the lead with the players," Anastos said. We have provided them with a league video on the topic. The NCAA is providing them with a video on the topic. During the intrasquad and exhibition games, a referee will meet with all of the teams to discuss the initiative.

Anastos and the CCHA have received a lot of feedback from the coaches.

"By and large the coaches have been supportive," Anastos said. "I think there is obviously some apprehension. It is a different approach than has been taken over the years, and they are concerned what impact it will have on the game. People are anticipating some growing pains in dealing with this. We are all committed to making whatever effort is needed because at the end we hope to have a better game."

Changes are going to have to come from officials and coaches as well as the players.

"The officials last year were consistent with what we were asking them to do," Anastos said. "As it relates with what we are asking them to do this year, it is more strict. It is going to take a big change on behalf of several parties including the officials, coaches, and players. The officials are being asked to call a tighter standard which will require the players to learn how to play differently in certain situations and coaches to teach some tactics in a different way. This is not across the board; it will be in specific situations.

This is all about the quality of the game. It allows the players to play. That is what is most important. Whether you are the most skilled players, or the least skilled players, it should allow players to play the game as the rules are intended."

Laker coach Frank Anzalone is one of the coaches who is apprehensive about the new enforcement. Anzalone feels that the liberal calling of penalties may not be the main reason for low scoring games.

"I have had conversations with Tom Anastos verbally as well as by letter," Anzalone said. "I feel he is right a little bit about the lack of offense in hockey. But, I believe there are more reasons for the lack of scoring. One reason is the extremely qualified goaltending and the equipment of the goalies.

"I don't think there are as many talented players to go around as there used to be. The talented players made plays. They are the guys that can set people up for unbelievable goals. I think there is an imbalance in college hockey, as there is at a lot of levels, as to who has the talented players."

Anzalone's Lakers rely heavily on defense. He worries about the effect of power-play advantages that could result from the new enforcement.

"When you are a program that is trying to rebuild, you have to play tough, strong defense," Anzalone said. "I don't want to see the referees misconstrue that and feel like players must be doing something wrong. That could mean that the talented guys are facing you at a man-advantage which could be even better for the top teams."

Anzalone, along with the other coaches in the CCHA, awaits some consequences of the stricter penalty calling.

"It will be interesting to see how the referees call it," Anzalone said. "I am not in agreement with it. I don't think the game has gotten that bad. I think there is a definite lack of shots on goal. I do have some fear for what it is going to mean when we exchange eight to 10 power plays each."

Anzalone had hoped to encourage his players to be more physical at defense. Because of the changes, the Lakers will have to perfect their penalty killing.

"The Lakers played a very abrasive style in the past, and we want to step into that more which means we could be in the box more," Anzalone said. "Our penalty killing is going to have to be about 85 percent. I was hoping we could hit more this year. But, we are going to have to find out in our first three weekends what the allowance and tolerance is on that. It's going to be interesting to watch."

The Lakers were the least-penalized team in the CCHA last year. Anzalone hopes that will benefit his team this year.

"I think that these are difficult times," Anzalone said. "It's going to be interesting to see how the new enforcement works. I just hope it doesn't hurt us. We have a good reputation going into the season because of being a low-penalized team. We would like to be a little more abrasive out there, and this has set me back a little bit. But, we are just going to have to see how the referees call it. We will give them a chance, and hopefully things will work out."

The Lakers will have their first CCHA match-up at home Thursday, Oct. 21, when they take on Michigan at Taffy Abel Arena. Face-off will be at 7:35 p.m.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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