Minnesota high school hockey's stricter checking penalties adopted nationwide

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Some of Minnesota's stricter penalties for high school hockey will now become the national standard for the sport.

For the last two and a half seasons, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) has experimented with increasing penalties for boarding and checking from behind – like the play that left Benilde St. Margaret's hockey player Jack Jablonski paralyzed – to limit the risk of injury.

On Tuesday, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) announced it will adopt Minnesota's penalty structure after the MSHSL recommended the changes at a meeting in April. Now, in all states, boarding or checking from behind results in a 5-minute major penalty, plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty.

"I am proud that our work here in Minnesota has led to this national rules change," MSHSL league associate director Craig Perry said in a news release. "There is no question in my mind that the other states that sponsor high school hockey will find that the greater first level penalties for dangerous play, when enforced, make the great game of hockey even better while protecting players from violent hits that can cause catastrophic injury."

Dan Schuster of the NFHS said that by increasing the penalties for boarding and checking from behind, the committee wanted to make it clear that this type of dangerous play has no place in high school ice hockey, according to a news release.

Minnesota started implementing stricter penalties in the 2011-12 season following a series of on-ice injuries.

"What we have done is encouraged play that is smart and play that is safe," Perry said. "The stiffer penalties in Minnesota have made the game safer. We have improved the culture of high school hockey."

The NFHS says a total of 35,198 boys participated in ice hockey in 1,601 schools across 17 states in the 2012-13 season. An additional 9,447 girls participated in the sport at 608 schools in 14 states.

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