By Dave Zednik, IHOA Registrar
QUESTION: Referees and coaches are continually getting into arguments in regards to intentional off-sides. Should intentional off-sides be at all age levels? Coaches and even certain referees are under the belief that intentional off-sides is not applicable to the “10 & Under” level players. Is there an age limit when intentional off-sides is not applicable?
ANSWER: Nowhere in the rules does it state or even imply that the “intentional off-sides” rule is only to be applied at certain levels. Those officials who tend to enforce their “own personal views” of the rules (and coaches who support them) actually delay the learning process and development of the players plus tend to make things that much more difficult for those officials that properly enforce the rules.
The purpose of the rule is to encourage players to handle the puck and be aware of their surroundings with the primary goal being to create a legal play at the blue line. Doing so will help them develop some puck handling and passing skills while also creating awareness and learning to keep their head up. This applies at all levels of play (even the Squirts – where they are learning to play the game – might as well teach them to play the right way versus having to correct a behavior later on) and when an intentional off-sides occurs (meaning there was no effort to make a legal play at the blue line) and is properly called, the obligation then falls on the coach to teach the players the skills necessary and the decision making process to avoid a similar situation in the future. Those coaches who are not willing to do that are simply taking a shortcut in skill development and may place too much emphasis on winning. The officials that then facilitate these coaches by not making the proper call are then contributing to this environment in a negative way.