MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a rare mid-season move, the Minnesota State High School League increased the in-game penalties for three dangerous types of hockey hits.

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Effective immediately, checking from behind, boarding, and hits to the head will result in five-minute major penalties. A five-minute major means the offending player will be in the penalty box for five minutes. That player’s team will be short-handed for the full five minutes, even if they are scored upon. A typical minor penalty ends if the short-handed team is scored upon.

The rule change follows two high-profile on-ice incidents at the high school level in Minnesota.

On Dec. 30, Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore Jack Jablonski was hit from behind, which sent him crashing head-first into the boards. He was paralyzed as a result. Then, a week later, Jenna Privette of St. Croix Lutheran High School suffered an injury during a game, and lost feeling in both her legs.

MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead says it was time to change the rules.

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“I know our hockey coaches and our officials have been completely concerned about what’s going on,” Stead said. “We want to make sure that nothing like what happened to Jack or Jenna ever happen again to kids if we can prevent it.”

WCCO’s Adam Carter Interviews Dave Stead

Stead says Minnesota is the first state to impose the stiffer penalties in high school hockey.

“We don’t want to change the game,” he said. “We just want to make it safe for kids.”

The MSHSL board approved the rule changes with the OK from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which writes the rules for high school sports.

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A safety video was filmed this past week explaining the new rules and safer hits by the MSHSL, and will be released soon.