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Fair Play System Targets Aggressive Penalties

By Minnesota Hockey, 10/01/13, 11:00AM CDT

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Have you ever watched a child throw a tantrum after striking out in Little League? Or how about a football player that throws cheap shots behind the play? Poor sportsmanship isn’t unique to baseball or football. It isn’t even exclusive to sports. Parents know all too well that proper behavior isn’t automatic for kids. It needs to be taught. Minnesota Hockey’s Fair Play system helps by reinforcing positive behavior in youth hockey.

Fair Play is one component of the Hockey Education Program (HEP) that is committed to providing all youth hockey players with a positive athletic experience.  Fair Play strives to improve accountability and sportsmanship among all the stakeholders in youth hockey by recognizing and rewarding teams that display appropriate behavior.

Under the Fair Play system, each team starts the game with their Fair Play point. A team loses it's Fair Play point if the team exceeds the penalty minute (PIM) threshold established for their level of play, a coach is assessed a Game Misconduct or Match Penalty, or a spectator is requested to leave the arena by an official.

2013-2014 Fair Play PIM Threshold

Level Minutes Level Minutes
Squirt 10 min Girls 10U 8 min
Peewee 12 min Girls 12U 10 min
Bantam 14 min Girls 14U 12 min
Youth 16U 16 min Girls 16U 14 min
Junior Gold 16 min Girls 19U 14 min

With this year’s changes to the USA Hockey Official Playing Rules, players and coaches will need to pay particular attention to reducing aggressive penalties in order to stay below their Fair Play threshold. The minimum penalty for head contact, charging and boarding is now a two-minute minor and 10-minute misconduct. For Fair Play purposes, these penalties will be handled just like checking from behind penalties have been the past, counting as 12 minutes towards each team’s PIM threshold.

At the end of the game, the scorekeeper is in charge of totaling HEP PIM equivalents according to the chart below and circling on the scoresheet whether each team earned their Fair Play point.  Fair Play points are then reported through the normal reporting process in each league and impact league standings. 

While Fair Play does not decide the outcome of individual games, consistently good (or bad) behavior can have a cumulative effect through league standings and playoff seedings, encouraging players, coaches and parents to display positive behavior at all events. 

HEP Fair Play PIM Equivalent Chart

Penalty Classification PIM Equivalent
Minor or Bench Minor 2 minutes
Major 5 minutes
Minor & Misconduct (2 & 10) 12 minutes
Misconduct (10) 10 minutes
Mouthguard Misconduct 2 minutes
Game Misconduct 10 minutes
Match 10 minutes
Penalty Shot Equivalent to penalty assessed

Since Fair Play was put into effect in the 2004-05 season, it has had a significant impact on reducing overly aggressive and unsportsmanlike behavior.  The most notable change has been seen on one of the most dangerous plays in hockey, checking from behind.

In 2004-05, there were 25-27 checking from behind penalties per 100 games at the Peewee and Bantam levels.  After seven years under the Fair Play system, there were only three of these penalties per 100 games in Peewees and just over 10 in Bantams.  That is a 60% reduction at the Bantam level and over an 85% decrease for Peewees. It may be incorrect to attribute this entirely to Fair Play, but there is definitely a connection between the two.

Checking from behind penalties (minor and a misconduct) have been and continue to be costly under the Fair Play system, which puts the PIM threshold at 12 for Peewees and 14 for Bantams. This has created a situation where players and coaches have been forced to avoid checking from behind penalties and other inappropriate behavior in order to maintain their place in the standings.

With identical penalties for head contact, charging and board taking effect this season, players and coaches will need to make a concentrated effort to remove these hits from the game. 

Results have shown it is possible to play hard and safe. The Fair Play system will continue to reward those players and teams that take this to heart and play hockey with respect for themselves, their opponents and the game itself.

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