Minnesota Hockey’s Fair Play system is entering its ninth season as one of the top behavior influencing programs in youth hockey. Fair Play encourages youth hockey players, parents and coaches to promote safety and display sportsmanship at all games by recognizing and rewarding positive behavior.
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.
During the 2004-2005 season, there were 25 and 27 checking from behind penalties per 100 games at the Peewee and Bantam levels respectively. Just seven years later, there were only three of these penalties per 100 games in Peewees and a little over 10 in Bantams. That is a 60% reduction at the Bantam level and over an 85% decrease for Peewees.
How was Fair Play able to make such an impact? Teams were rewarded in their standings for playing games in a safe and positive manner.
Under the Fair Play system, each team starts the game with their Fair Play point. A team loses it's Fair Play point if it exceeds the penalty minute (PIM) threshold established for their level of play (see chart below), a coach is assessed a Game Misconduct or Match Penalty, or a spectator is requested to leave the arena by an official.
|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|
The game scorekeeper is in charge of totaling HEP PIM equivalents at the end of each game 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 appear on league standings.
While Fair Play does not impact the outcome of individual games, consistently good (or bad) behavior can have a cumulative effect on league standings and playoff seedings, encouraging players, coaches and parents to display positive behavior at all events.
|Penalty Classification||PIM Equivalent|
|Minor or Bench Minor||2 minutes|
|Minor & Misconduct (2 & 10)||12 minutes|
|Misconduct (10)||10 minutes|
|Mouthguard Misconduct||2 minutes|
|Game Misconduct||10 minutes|
|Penalty Shot||Equivalent to penalty assessed|
As you can see, checking from behind penalties (Minor & Misconduct) can have a major impact on if a team receives its Fair Play point. Over time, teams learn to adjust and drastically reduce those penalties. With identical penalties for head contact, charging and board taking effect last season, many hope Fair Play can also reduce or eliminate these dangerous hits from the game.
Fair Play, which is a component of the Hockey Education Program (HEP), is committed to providing all youth hockey players with a positive athletic experience. The Fair Play system has and will continue to reward players and teams who play hockey with respect for themselves, their opponents and the game itself.