Can the NCAA help eliminate hits from behind?

Ryan Kennedy
NCAA-hit

Interesting development to come out of NCAA hockey’s rules committee meetings in Indianapolis: According to Chris Dilks of SB Nation, the group approved the use of a “Look-Up Line” around the surface of the ice that would potentially help cut down on hits from behind in the college game.

The orange line would function like a warning track in baseball, reminding players in the heat of action that they are approaching the boards, a potentially dangerous area. Since college hockey players all wear full face shields or cages, their peripheral vision is sometimes impaired, making hits from behind more difficult to avoid. In fact, there have been talks in recent years of switching to a three-quarter length visor in order to alleviate the problem, though that was not part of this year’s report.

The Look-Up Line was tested out during this season’s Frozen Fenway games. Michael Sit of Boston College still received a boarding major during the Eagles’ match with Notre Dame, though the line was not as thick as originally intended due to the less-than-ideal outdoor preparation conditions. While players claimed that they didn’t notice the line, there are some real implications if the originally-designed 40-inch orange swath of paint was used in games.

That is to say, players would have a much more difficult time claiming the speed of the game led them to hit a player from behind (you should have let up when he got to the warning track), or conversely, that a player who got hit from behind because they turned at the last second didn’t know someone was coming (you were on the warning track; you knew you were in a dangerous position).

The line was created by the Thomas E. Smith Foundation, which lists Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna as a contributing founder. The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee approved the use of the line, but did not mandate it for all rinks, meaning schools will decide whether to use it or not. There are several layers of approval still needed for the committee’s suggestions, but this is an interesting potential for a sport where speed and physicality are so integral.