Two serious injuries in the morning advanced division (Div 1M) within the past year resulted in a recent review of SCRHL policies pertaining to non-penalized hockey plays that contribute to hospitalization and lengthy respites from hockey.
The review centered around plays that could be considered fine from a referee perspective, but grey and unsafe in terms of potential, high injury of a player (ie: broken bones, paralysis, major head trauma) in a recreational hockey environment.
- High speed chase down the ice by a defending player trying to overtake a breakaway by throwing his/her body at the offensive player (but still playing the puck), resulting in loss of control and major impact to the boards of both or the offensive player
In two recent occurrences in the past year, this situation resulted in two hospitalizations (broken collar bone, back injury), weeks or months away from work, and months away from returning to hockey for the offensive player. However, the play itself was not penalized because it was considered a Hockey Canada play.
The problem is that even in divisions segregated based on beginner, intermediate, and advanced skills, there are still differences in ability related to skating and balance. Recreational hockey players also would like to return home or go to work following a game without fear of a life-altering injury requiring a phone call to their partner and a trip to the hospital. There are no scouts in the stands, only a few spectators most of the time, and we do not receive pay for risky plays. We play to have fun and get some exercise.
As a result, effective January 20th, 2020, the SCRHL has consulted with captains in its morning advanced division to obtain their feedback regarding a league-wide policy that addresses player accountability when penalties are not assessed in these situations. In essence, this new process will address this type of situation: A player is seriously injured, removed from the ice by fellow players or paramedics, and confirmed hospitalized due to another players actions that are considered not in the spirit of SCRHL sportsmanship and safe play. (A play could be considered perfectly fine from a Hockey Canada perspective, but usportsmanlike and adhering to player safety based on the SCRHL guidelines.)
In this type of situation, SCRHL Administration will do the following in the order listed below:
1) Confirm hospitalization of a player / extended absence from both hockey and work via medical documentation
2) Obtain the video footage from the referee Go-Pro to review
3) Review the player history of the player contributing to the injury (ie: past penalty minutes, disciplinary history)
4) Document items 1-3 in a briefing for the SCRHL Referee Group to review and assess based on the questions below:
1. Was contact initiated?
2. Was contact avoidable based on skill / division in which played?
3. Was the play contrary to the spirit of SCRHL sportsmanship and safe play?
4. If YES to 1, 2, & 3, then should the player involved be removed from SCRHL ice time for the same length of time as the injured player (or an equivalent reasonable time frame)?
5) Receive feedback from referees with unanimous approval to assess the player involved in the injury with a length of time away from SCRHL games equal to the injured players length of time away from SCRHL games (or reasonable number).
The above process has inherent checks and balances to ensure that there is no abuse of such a review in its steps and only reviews legitimate situations where a player is seriously injured, removed from the ice by fellow players or paramedics, and confirmed hospitalized due to another players actions that are considered not in the spirit of SCRHL sportsmanship and safe play.
This new process also sends the message to SCRHL players to play within reasonable bounds of conduct on the ice based on skill levels, respect your fellow players, and remember that we all want to get home after the game in the same form that we started it.