Rule crackdown elevating hockey skill

The Terrace B.C. Adult Hockey League has cracked down on the rules and it is drawing out more skilled play, says its president.

The men’s rec hockey league started cracking down on the rules two years ago and its president, Steve Smyth, said it is drawing out more skill on the ice and making play more even.

“Some of the teams can beat any of the other teams, and it is because of skill rather than the physical aspects of the game,” said Smyth.

The popular league, also known as the Terrace Adult Hockey League, has eight rec teams and six oldtimers (age 35+). It includes players of all skill levels, from minor hockey graduates to recreational players to players who have competed at the junior level.

Smyth said the rule crack down was partly because of that mixed-level dynamic and was driven by an aim to “restore more of the recreational aspect of the league.”

The main shift was with referees ramping up the penalties for players slamming each other into the boards. Under the CARHA rules which the league follows, any physical contact into the boards is a four-minute penalty.

“For the first year there was a bit of dissatisfaction with that, because we haven’t really called it before,” said Smyth. “But those are the rules. Now we are consistently calling that and the play has adjusted itself accordingly.”

Goaltender interference was another focus. Referees have made a point to call it right away when players knock into a goalie, before the teammates start shoving each other around the net.

“When the referee called goaltender interference by the rule book, and called it immediately, it tended to eliminate the jockeying back and forth afterwards,” Smyth said.

Smyth says it has taken a while for players to adjust to the crackdown, but they are seeing the benefits of the shift now.

It makes for faster and smoother games, and better competition as teams battle based on skill rather than physicality.

The crackdown was prompted two seasons ago in 2014 by league executives and team representatives due to concerns about things getting carried away, Smyth said.

“It’s really the players in the league that drive where the league goes, and they wanted to see a crackdown [on the rules], he said.

They also wanted to be more strict about the yapping and chatter and verbal abuse of referees and players.

The league has made good strides with that and Smyth said there were very few incidents this last season.

“Its a long road to eliminate that from recreational hockey. Everybody seems to think they have the right to question the calls… it’s a bit of a challenge, but the players have responded to the challenge,” he said.

Teams will hit the ice in mid-September, and one of the rec teams is shifting into the oldtimers’ ranks, opening up more spots and hopefully cutting down the waiting list of players, Smyth said.

Last year the league started the season with 15 players on the waiting list, down to four by the end of the season.

“We had a great year, we had a fabulous playoff and all the teams were very close,” Smyth said, noting that most of the playoff games went to overtime.  “Teams were very evenly matched. The games were played on the ice and not in the penalty box. It was fast and it was exciting and we actually had fans out other than just wives and moms,” he laughed.

Players can register online and any interested officials can contact Dave Scott at 250-635-3716 or Steve Smyth at 250-638-1143.