The 2021-25 USA Hockey Playing Rule change process was completed on June 12, 2021 as the USA Hockey Board of Directors approved nearly 90 rule changes and clarifications at its Annual Congress. The 2021-25 USA Hockey Playing Rules will take effect starting September 1, 2021.
The majority of the changes in this four-year cycle were designed to incorporate concepts from USA Hockey’s Declaration of Safety, Fair Play, and Respect, which was introduced in 2019 to enhance the safety of the game for all participants. Many of the changes were also focused on clarifying the intent of the existing rules or updating their language.
A summary of the rule changes is available below. A full list of the rule changes is available here, and the 2021-25 official rulebook, which features the entire wording of the new rules highlighted in gray, can be found here.
The first part of the rulebook will feature two major changes. The Declaration of Safety, Fair Play and Respect has been added to this section, and its principles have been integrated throughout the Standards of Play and Points of Emphasis sections.
In addition, USA Hockey has adopted a standardized discipline policy for match penalties. The new policy establishes a range of suspension length based on the type and severity of the violation.
- A stoppage of play will now be required at all levels when a helmet is removed. This change eliminates the previous exception for the Adult classification.
- USA Hockey now recommends all players wear a neck laceration protector that covers as much of the neck area as possible.
- Players will now be assessed a game misconduct after 4 penalties in the same game and a coach will receive a game suspension when a team accumulates 12 penalties during same game.
- A pro-rated schedule for minor penalties was established based on period length. For periods 12-minutes or less, the minor penalty length shall be 1:00. The minor penalty time shall be 1:30 for more than 12 and less than 17-minute periods and 2:00 for periods 17- minutes in length or greater. Per an allowed affiliate exception, Minnesota Hockey determined all minor penalties at the Bantam/15U level and up will be 2:00 in penalty time regardless of period length.
- All major penalties will now include a game misconduct penalty.
- Players or team officials serving a suspension for a game misconduct violation or disciplinary suspension may not have any interaction with the team 45 minutes prior to the game, during the game and for 30 minutes after the game. Prohibited activities include any communication, being in the locker room or in the vicinity of the bench area. Violations may result in supplementary discipline.
- Optional pro-rated schedules for major, misconduct and match penalties were established. Per allowed affiliate discretion, Minnesota Hockey determined all major, misconduct and match penalties will remain at 5:00, 10:00 and 5:00 penalty times, respectively.
- A deadline of 24 hours following the game was established for officials to submit a game report when the rules dictate one must be filed.
- Coaches who receive a second game misconduct for Abuse of Officials in the same season will be automatically suspended for three games. Coaches who receive a third game misconduct for Abuse of Officials in the same season will be suspended until a hearing is conducted.
- The unsportsmanlike conduct bench minor penalty for banging the boards with a stick or other object was clarified to be applied specifically when doing so to celebrate a legal or illegal body check. Celebration of goals and saves is allowed and will not be cause for a penalty.
- Vaping was added to the banned substances for players and team officials. Following a warning, the penalty for any violation shall be a game misconduct.
- Language was adopted to change rule references of “deliberate injury” to “recklessly endangers” to better allow officials to judge the action that occurs instead of trying to determine whether an injury has occurred.
- The face-off location following a penalty call that causes a team to be shorthanded shall be an end zone face-off in the defending zone of the penalized team unless: the penalty is assessed after a goal is scored, the penalty occurs at the end of a period or the non-offending team causes a stoppage of play (offsides, icing, etc.).
- Teams are prohibited from legally icing the puck during shorthanded situations, with the exception of High School (Junior Gold) and Adult classifications. Editor's Note: This rule was already in place at the Bantam/15U age levels and below so the change only impacts the 16U and 18U/19U age levels.
- Tag-up off-side was eliminated at all Youth/Girls levels of play. Immediate offside shall now be applied at all levels, except High School (Junior Gold) and Adult classifications. Note: Immediate off-side was already in place at the Peewee/12U levels and below so the change impacts the Bantam/15U age level and up.
- A minimum penalty of a major plus game misconduct was established for slew footing.
- Any goaltender who body checks an opponent shall be assessed a minor penalty for unnecessary roughness.