Rules promoting greater player safety and improved coach-player communication highlight the playing rules changes for the winter sports season now underway at Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools across the state.
The winter sports season involves eight different sports and approximately 70,000 student-athletes. Practices began as early as late October; and tournaments begin in mid-February, running through the end of March. Competition is already underway in Girls Basketball, Bowling in the Upper Peninsula, Girls Competitive Cheer, Girls Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, and Upper Peninsula Swimming & Diving. On Saturday (Dec. 7), competition begins for Bowling and Swimming in the Lower Peninsula, as well as Wrestling. The Boys Basketball season begins on Monday (Dec. 9), and Skiing events may begin on Dec. 14.
Ice Hockey has several rules changes promoting player safety. “Blind-side” hits, checks to an unsuspecting or vulnerable player, can now be penalized; and the rule prohibiting a player form pushing, charging, cross or body-checking an opponent from behind into the boards or goal frame has reinstated the discretion for the official to issue a game disqualification when flagrant. Another safety change stops play when the goalkeeper’s glove is displaced – expanding a rule where the displacement of the keeper’s mask or helmet stops play.
Additionally, an embellishment rule has been added to discourage players from taking dives to draw penalties and exaggerating the severity of the impact of a play in which a penalty is called. Finally, when the attacking team bats the puck directly on goal, it shall result in an immediate whistle and a resulting faceoff at the defensive zone faceoff spot of the offending team.
In Basketball and Wrestling, electronic devices may now be used on the bench or in the corner for coaching purposes – for example, to show plays or keep statistics. Devices may not be used to dispute officials’ calls.
The head coach in Basketball may enter the court without penalty when a fight may break out or has broken out to prevent the situation from escalating. Players and assistant coaches who leave the bench in such situations will continue to be assessed flagrant technical fouls and be disqualified from the contest.
In keeping with rules book language published a few years ago in football, the basketball rules have added a section which limits public address announcers’ action during play. PA announcers, during game action, are limited to announcing who scores baskets and commits fouls. Any other announcements during play, like time remaining, are inappropriate. General announcements during time outs are still allowed.
In Wrestling, forfeits are no longer considered as matches when considering the five-matches-in-one-day limit for competition.
Winter tournaments begin the first full week of February in wrestling. The first MHSAA Finals of the season are the Upper Peninsula Swimming & Diving Finals on February 15, and tournaments conclude with the Boys Basketball Semifinals & Finals, March 21-22.