Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCO) — The legal hit that paralyzed Jack Jablonski last winter basically changed the rules of high school hockey overnight.
Officials implemented a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind or a hit to the head.
“We no longer had kids running around like banshees trying to run guys. We had guys being much more aware of their bodies,” said Apple Valley boys coach Jerry Hayes.
Hayes is the former President of the Minnesota Boys High School Hockey Coaches Association. He said the five-minute major rule that came into play in the middle of last season made a big difference in how the game is played.
“I would say it did change the outcome of some games and I definitely noticed a change in how we coached and how players played,” said Hayes.
It also changed how referees officiated. Hayes said not all officials were consistent with the five-minute major rule, and some coaches noticed a change between the regular season, section playoffs and state tournament. This year he expects more consistency, and for referees to crack down on more than just hits into the boards.
In a five-minute major, the team on the power play has a player advantage for the full five minutes regardless of how many goals they score. On a standard two minute power play, that team has the advantage until they score or the two minutes expires.
“This year what they are addressing is that open ice hit. That check from behind in front of the net. That check from behind in neutral ice,” said Hayes.
While the five-minute major may be an advantage for teams with good power plays, players we’ve talked with are fine with it. Like Coach Hayes, Minnetonka captain Max Coatta feels players will step up knowing safety is goal number 1.
“I feel like it’s something that needed to be done with how many concussions there are. It’s a good rule to have the five minute for checking from behind. It’s a good rule,” said Coatta.
“Now the game is what it is, and now let’s go play. We know the parameters, we know the rules, we have the expectations for what’s the call. Now we play the game,” said Hayes.
Coach Hayes said referees had a tough adjustment to make in the middle of last season. But he’s happy the five minute major rule is in play and doesn’t expect it to change.