Have you ever been in a situation where you made a decision and then immediately regretted it?
"You know, I really shouldn't have taken on a car payment for that Mustang that I can't afford and that won't drive particularly well in the winter ..."
"Hmm, dogs make me a little nervous, maybe I shouldn't have agreed to dogsit ..."
Hey, we've all internally scoffed at ourselves for doing something without fully thinking of the repercussions. This happens to me every time I have that one extra slice of pizza.
When the New York State Public High School Athletic Association decided in July 2017 to adopt new rules that would affect period and penalty length in high school hockey, it seemed like a change for the sake of making a change. Now, not even one full season in, the NYSPHSAA is weighing whether it should revert back to the old rules.
Some background: prior to this season, period lengths in high school hockey in New York state were 15 minutes long, minor penalties were 1:30 and major penalties were four minutes. Under the new rule, periods are now 17 minutes long, minor penalties are two minutes and major penalties are five minutes.
According to the New York State Sportswriters Association blog, the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee, during its scheduled meeting this Friday, will vote whether or not to rescind this rule change.
I have yet to hear a sensible reason why this change was made in the first place. Does it allow the players to receive a little more playing time? Sure, but that seems a little unnecessary considering high school teams practice every day of the week (aside from Sunday) that a game isn't scheduled; additionally, many teams unfortunately don't have the depth in numbers to make ice time a significant problem for the players that have earned it.
Two minutes extra per period, and six per game, doesn't seem like that much, but it must be factored in that high school hockey already requires the most amount of actual time — not game time — to complete a game. Teams warm up prior to the game, then the Zamboni cleans the ice before each period, and then there's the mini warm-ups on the fresh ice that take another couple minutes. When all is said and done, a high school hockey game becomes a three-hour affair. Compare that to a high school basketball that has four eight-minute quarters — most of those games are completed in well under two hours.
You know who doesn't want to work longer for the same amount of pay? Well, all of us ... but in this case I'm referring to the referees, who according to the sportswriters' blog filed a grievance for more money to work the state championships following this rule change. More time on on the job should equate to more money, right?
Consider that officials receive assignments from all over the section. It may not be a regular occurrence, but what if you're an official that lives on the western side of the section and you receive an assignment for a 7 p.m. game on the eastern side? Does an hour-and-20-minute drive from Auburn to New Hartford for a Wednesday game seem worthwhile? Probably not, and now the game is even longer.
There's also ice time logistics to this. The Citizen's two local hockey programs are Auburn and Skaneateles, and both have their own facility — Auburn has Casey Park and Skaneateles has the Skaneateles YMCA — but not every team in the state has that luxury. My hometown rink, Lakeshore Hockey Arena in Rochester, has four high school teams that share the ice, and for many years there were six teams that shared. In fact, most of the handful of rinks around Rochester are occupied by multiple high school teams, and I'm sure it's the same in a hockey hotbed like Buffalo. Try telling a rink like Lakeshore, which has to balance its high school games and practices, youth hockey and men's league every night that every minute doesn't count.
Clearly, for whatever its reasons are, the NYSPHSAA realized the error of its ways and will try to revert back to 15-minute periods as soon as possible.
"As soon as possible" apparently could be in time for the state tournament in March, which seems like a foolish plan. Every team has been playing under certain rules since November and will continue to do so through sectionals, but there's consideration to implement a new rule when state championships are on the line? While we're in the mood to shoot from the hip, let's eliminate the red line and add video replay (Oh wait, they're already doing the latter).
There was never a problem with period length. The pros and colleges should play 20-minute periods, while youth hockey and high school should have 15. Problem solved, case closed. There's nothing wrong with reverting back to the old rule. I support it and would even commend the NYSPHSAA for doing so, even if that decision would be a financial one above all.
Next time, though, just leave that extra pizza slice in the box.