BCHL introduces new rules to improve player safety


The BC Hockey League has announced a variety of new rules and initiatives meant to address player safety and a return-to-play plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rules and initiatives were released Wednesday, including the formation of a BCHL Department of Player Safety led by Director of Officiating and Player Safety Brad Lazarowich and Executive Director Steven Cocker.

As it relates to launching the 2020-21 season, the league created a return-to-play task force last month. The task force is taxed with putting together a number of plans on how the league can complete the upcoming season while adhering to the regulations and requirements outlined by the provincial health authorities in BC.

The league has also imposed stricter penalties for fighting in 2020-21. Players who engage in a fight are currently assessed a five minute major penalty and an automatic game misconduct. Under the Junior A Supplement, which is the minimum standards adhered to by all 10 leagues in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, a player received supplemental discipline on their fifth fight of the season.

The new rule sees a player receive supplemental discipline upon their second fighting major. The league has also cracked down on players deemed to be the instigator and/or aggressor in a fight, with both penalties now receiving a suspension upon the first offense. Subsequent instigator and/or aggressor penalties after the first one received will see a significant increase in suspension.

“As a leader of developing college-bound student athletes, we feel this is a progressive step for the BCHL,” said Cocker in the league’s official news release. “The safety of our players is an integral part of any decision we make as a league and a stronger stance on fighting and zero-tolerance on instigators and aggressors is a great step forward. The game continues to evolve and move in the direction of speed and skill and we want to be on the forefront of that movement. Our Board of Governors will follow this closely and revisit at our 2021 Semi-Annual Meeting to evaluate our progress in strengthening our player-safety measures.”

Other rule changes related to charging and slew-footing

In addition, the BCHL has put in specific wording as it relates to charging. The league calls any hit that comes from a player’s blindside – outside a 90 degree angle of their line of vision – with significant force, as a charge. It can be called as a minor, major, and game misconduct or match penalty. A charging penalty will also now be reviewed by the Department of Player Safety to see if it warrants further discipline.

A slew-foot is now in the same category as clipping and kneeing as it relates to accumulating penalties. A slew-foot will carry an automatic four-minute double minor or a match penalty, at the referee’s discretion. If there is an injury as a result of a slew-foot, the offending player receives an automatic match penalty.

The league has also mandated that every team has a portable defibrillator in case of an emergency involving a player or staff member. The BCHL says it is each team’s trainer’s responsibility to have the defibrillator at every game, practice, and team event.