Be good to the game and the game will be good to you. Hockey is a special game. Hockey players are special people. We respect the sport. We shake hands after each game. We form bonds and friendships that are stronger and last longer than any other sport. But there are certain things you just don’t do on the ice, and not all of them are etched in stone for all to see.
Let’s take a look at five unwritten rules of hockey.
Protect your goalie.
Keeping the goalie healthy and focused on his/her job is a team priority. Goaltending isn’t easy, so let’s not make the job any harder. Don’t let opposing players intrude on your goaltender.
USA Hockey’s Minnesota District Goalie Coach-in-Chief Steve Carroll says it’s important that the goalies don’t get rattled by unwanted contact.
“I think it really helps a goalie’s confidence to know their teammates have their back if there is unwanted contact,” Carroll says. “Goalies often feel isolated. Knowing they are going to be protected by their teammates makes them feel more a part of the team. Knowing they have the support of their teammates also allows the goalie an opportunity to spend more time focusing on stopping the puck and helping their team win.”
But how far should players go? Hal Tearse, the USA Hockey Associate Coach-in-Chief of the Minnesota District, cautions players who feel they need to take the law into their own hands after the whistle.
“Protecting the goalie is the job the officials and most times when a player is ‘protecting their goalie’ it is after the whistle and he ends up in the penalty box,” Tearse says. “Before the whistle, defenders certainly should stand their ground in front of the net. When the whistle blows, the play is over.”
Don’t shoot near your goalie’s head in warmups.
Don’t start firing rockets near your goalie's head during warmups. The last thing you want is to anger or injure your last line of defense right before the puck drops. There’s not a whole lot of time for pre-game, on-ice warmups in youth hockey. Make sure the goalie sees a lot of shots and gets comfortable. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot to score. But remember, having a properly warmed up and confident goaltender could play a big part in how your team fares in the game.
“Players should work on hitting the net and shooting to challenge the goalie,” Carroll adds. “Goalies need to feel the puck and make some saves during warmups so they feel confident and are ready to play their best when the puck drops.”
Show sportsmanship when you have a big lead late in a game.
Nobody wants to see a blowout in youth hockey. Unfortunately, sometimes it happens. Running up the score sends a bad message to the kids. It’s poor sportsmanship.
Some productive alternatives:
It’s never an ideal situation for either team to be in a lopsided game. On the flip side, players and coaches on the opposite end of the spectrum need to continue working hard and putting in an honest effort. This would be one of those moments that teaches resiliency and helps build character. Don’t quit on your teammates. And coaches – don’t quit on your players. Adapt to the situation, set new goals and stay in control.
While we’re at it – there’s no need to have a big celebration when someone scores to make it 7-0. Keep it classy.
Don’t shoot the puck after the whistle.
First off, it’s a penalty. Secondly, it’s just poor hockey etiquette. When you hear the whistle, the play stops. Don’t shoot the puck. All it will do is cause problems. Not only will it anger the opposing team, but it will also annoy the officials. Respect the goalie after the play is over. If you don’t, you’ll wind up in the penalty box and also start to put your own goaltender at risk for extracurricular nonsense. That’s not a team play.
Don’t shave until after the playoffs.
OK, OK – we realize most of our youth hockey players aren’t flaunting bushy beards. But if you can grow it, why not show it? This is not a requirement by all means, but more so just a quirk that most of our college and pro hockey players share come playoff time. It could be a nice way to keep the mood light and fun around the locker room.
Coaches and parents – we’re looking at you.