Controversial new IIHF checking rules will be on display at World Juniors

The upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship is bound to be marred by the IIHF’s new late hit rule. (Getty)
The upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship is bound to be marred by the IIHF’s new late hit rule. (Getty)

If you thought enjoying this year’s World Junior championship would be as easy as simply sitting back, flipping on the tube, cracking a cold brew and soaking in all the burgeoning hockey talent, well, how dare you be so naive.

The IIHF has other ideas for your blood pressure levels over the holidays, as we’ll get our first glimpse at the new parameters regulating the most debated and discussed aspect of the game.

The 2019 WJHC will feature a freshly-implemented “Late Hit Rule,” which is intended to protect players with the puck who are deemed vulnerable, even if the player on the receiving end is aware of the incoming contact.

Here’s a video explanation that the IIHF released on Friday to prepare spectators for the impending hockey apocalypse.

From the IIHF Rule Book:

A late hit constitutes a bodycheck to an opponent who no longer has control or possession of the puck. The opponent may have been in control or possession of the puck when the defending player committed to making a bodycheck, but the checking player risks a penalty if the flow of the game is such that the opponent is no longer in control or possession of the puck and has completed his action with the puck by the time the bodycheck is made. A late hit can be delivered to an opponent who is either aware or unaware of the opponent making the late hit.

Essentially, even if you’ve committed to making the check on a player with the puck, that player becomes ineligible to be hit as soon as the puck leaves his stick. Previous international protocol and current NHL rules deem contact legal on a player within 1 second of the opponent forfeiting possession of the puck — though there’s a large grey area mixed in there as long as that rule has been around, too.

The IIHF defines a vulnerable player as one who “is no longer in possession or control of the puck and he is not aware or not prepared for an impending hit.”

Any player who commits a late hit on an unsuspecting opponent is eligible to receive a major penalty and an automatic game-misconduct. Those who “recklessly endanger a vulnerable opponent by a late hit” will be assessed a match penalty.

So, crews consisting of unfamiliar officials from various international hockey backgrounds will be tasked with enforcing a rule that is poorly written and contradicts the way every player in this tournament learned how to approach body contact their entire careers.

And referees, players, coaches and spectators will all get their first major-event taste of this new protocol during the most-watched and highly scrutinized under-20 hockey event on the planet.

What could possibly go wrong?

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