A safe season/The Red Line

Consider the following as winter sports seasons begin this weekend throughout the Copper Country – all those injuries you see on the court or ice, they don’t just resolve themselves on their own.

After the player “walks off under his or her own power,” that’s just the beginning.

Injuries require the time and intervention of medical professionals to restore a young athlete to wholeness. And let’s not forget money. Someone has to pay for their time and the treatments, and medical care isn’t cheap.

Yet another reason why player safety must be paramount. It’s a topic addressed by some national rule changes you’ll be seeing over the course of this high school season, particularly in hockey.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has amended the checking-from-behind rule, strengthening the language to read: “No player shall push, charge, cross-check or body-check an opponent from behind into the boards or goal frame.” Violation requires a major penalty and a misconduct, or if flagrant, a game disqualification.

This is a change from the past, which allowed the officials much less discretion on determining whether or not a hit from behind should result in a player’s ejection.

“Checking from behind is the most dangerous act in the sport,” said Dan Schuster, NFHS assistant director of coach education and staff liaison to the Ice Hockey Rules Committee. “With all of its rules changes, the goal of the committee is to minimize the risk of injury.”

In a rule that sounds a lot like that in football, it is now illegal to hit an ‘unsuspecting and vulnerable’ player.

However, the penalty for simulating such actions has also been clarified. The embellishment of acts designed to draw a penalty through exaggerated or deceitful actions or to worsen the appearance of an already-called penalty is worth a minor.

Like you see in the college and pro games, the official can call both the original penalty and a ‘dive’ on the same play.

That being said, all of these are, to a degree, judgement calls. However, one additional hockey rule change enforced for this season is definite – if the goaltender loses his glove, the play must be whistled dead.

The list of rules changes for prep basketball this season are relatively light, at least for the folks who plan on behaving well this season.

From now on, in the event of a fight, a head coach can intervene to separate the players without being ‘beckoned’ on to the court by an official.

Thankfuly, I have not seen such debauchery in the Copper Country, though I am trying to imagine what the above scenario might look like.

Coaches are now officially allowed to use electronic devices for the gathering of statistics and teaching purposes, though they cannot use them for communication or to review an official’s call.

All of the other rule changes for basketball this season are related to uniforms, regarding the allowance of a single manufacturer’s logo on the jersey and restricting the use of compression sleeves on the legs to medical reasons only.

Three local high schools begin the winter season with hockey games on Friday night. Let’s hope they’re safe ones.

Brandon Veale can be reached at bveale@mininggazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.