Rule Changes Follow Tough Path

Matt Nilles

As an official, have you ever wondered who cooked up a new rule or how it worked its way through the wheels of bureaucracy to become an ingrained part of the game?

Whether that thought is accompanied by a sense of awe or frustration, each rule change has survived a thorough, balanced system that is generally considered with a great deal of deliberation by scores of hockey people.

At times, rule changes come about as a response to action taken by another governing body (International Ice Hockey Federation, National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Hockey League, Hockey Canada, etc.).

But the fundamental beauty of the USA Hockey framework is that, oftentimes, the idea comes from grassroots America – USA Hockey rank-and-file members – and follows a careful and well-laid-out path:
• A rule-change form is submitted to USA Hockey
• All proposals are assembled by the USA Hockey supervisor of officials
• The USA Hockey Playing Rules Committee discusses each proposal
•  The committee decides which rules it will recommend for approval
• Each rule change is voted on by the USA Hockey board of directors
• Any proposal that garners a majority of “yes” votes then goes into effect

As many members of USA Hockey know, rule changes are considered every two years (the 2009-10 season is a rule-change year). A proposal must be submitted on a USA Hockey rule-change form, which can be found at

“As anyone who uses the form can see,” says USA Hockey Referee-in-Chief Dave LaBuda, “you have to write down the current rule as it is stated in the rule book, what the new wording would be, and, most importantly, what the reason or rationale is behind the change.”

The Playing Rules Committee then gets a crack at each proposal, rolling up its sleeves at the winter meetings in January.

“Members look at the merit of each rule, and whether it promotes a safe and fair environment for youth hockey,” says LaBuda.

USA Hockey Secretary Bill Hall has gained an appreciation for the process over his 30 years as a USA Hockey administrator.

“I think it allows for very careful consideration among the directors and other concerned USA Hockey volunteers,” says Hall.

After that, the “Moment of Truth” occurs at the Annual Congress in June.

“And it may have all started with any given individual in USA Hockey,” says LaBuda. “It can provide a sense of accomplishment for the person who authors the rule change.”

USA Hockey Playing Rules

The use of the body (“pick” or “block”) to impede the progress of an opponent (no puck possession) with no effort to maintain normal foot speed or an established skating lane.
Examples include:
• Intentionally playing the body of an opponent who does not have possession or possession and control of the puck
• Using the body to establish a ”pick” or “block” that prevents an opponent from being able to chase a puck carrier
• Reducing foot speed or changing an established skating lane for the purpose of impeding an opponent from being able to chase a puck carrier

Chris Rooney, NHL OfficialChris Rooney, NHL OfficialWhistle Blower | Q&A

It’s hard to imagine anyone gaining from having his house burn to the ground, but in the case of 33-year-old Chris Rooney, that just may be the case. Strangely, that childhood blaze may be responsible for starting the Boston native down a path that has led to a career featuring more than 340 NHL games as a referee.

USA Hockey Magazine recently caught up to the 13-year veteran during his travels between NHL cities.

USA Hockey Magazine: How did you get started in officiating and how old were you?
Chris Rooney: I started when I was 11 years old. I thought at the time that I was just doing it for the money. Going out and doing Mite games for $12 was better than bagging groceries for $4 an hour.

UHM: Did you play hockey, and if so, to what level?
CR: I played until my second year of high school. I was a goalie and wasn’t very good. That year, my parents’ house burned to the ground and my goalie equipment went with it. It was probably a good thing that happened to my goalie equipment, because then I concentrated on officiating.

UHM: Did you have a “mentor” official?
CR: The person who got me started and worked with me a ton as I was coming up was Gene Binda, a well-known figure in Massachusetts officiating. He was great, and drove me all around the state to officiate games.

UHM: What is your favorite NHL arena to work in? What do you consider the top hockey city in the league and why?
CR: I don’t have a favorite in particular. I think the Canadian cities are probably the most fun to work in, only because they really get into their hockey, and the buildings are always sold out.

UHM: What do you do in the off-season?
CR: I live in Boston during the off-season with my wife. We do not have any children.

UHM: What advice would you give a young, up-and-coming official with a lot of potential?
CR: The one piece of advice I would give any young official is to officiate a lot of games. There is no substitute for experience. The more you do something, the better you get.

UHM: Do you have one game from your career that is the most important or most memorable?
CR: I think the games that I remember most are my firsts – my first [NHL] regular-season game and my first playoff game. I had a lot of family members in the crowd, so it made it more enjoyable.



Who is your favorite American player?
Auston Matthews
Jason Robertson
Tage Thompson
Matthew Tkachuk
Patrick Kane
Total votes: 388