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High school hockey in Minnesota continues to be a popular activity.

Because of the concern of injury, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) continuously is looking at measures to keep the games competitive, yet safe for the participants. The NFHS has clear points of emphasis each year in every activity.

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In an effort to minimize risk of injury in high school ice hockey, a significant change in goalkeeper equipment during the 2008-09 season will include a flapper-style throat protector.

This revision was one of six changes approved by the (NFHS) Ice Hockey Rules Committee at its April meeting. The changes are in effect in Minnesota this year.

Beginning next season, all goalkeepers will be required to wear a flapper-style throat protector to reduce exposure to the throat if a goalkeeper is knocked down during play.

The protectors must be separate, commercially manufactured, unaltered and properly attached to the helmet or face mask.

Besides minimizing risk to the goalkeeper, this revision will also ease officiating by providing a clearly visible item of legal equipment.

"This is a significant piece in goalkeeper protection," said Bob Gardner, NFHS chief operating officer and chair of the NFHS Rules Review Committee.

"It will also be easy for the officials to tell if the goalkeepers are wearing the proper equipment."

The committee also revised three rules to reinforce sportsmanship by creating tougher team penalties.

When the rules indicate a "captain's choice of players" for serving a penalty, a new rule will require that a captain must select a player who was on the ice at the time of the infraction.

This revision adds more weight to the penalty, and will create a power-play opportunity for the opposing team.

Revisions in other rules will create a team aspect to the penalties by adding a two-minute minor penalty to be served by any player, coach or bench personnel using obscene gestures or language.

This creates another power-play opportunity for the non-offending team, because the offender cannot be replaced during the penalty.

This new penalty hurts both the individual and the team and is very serious, and with these efforts they are reinforcing good sportsmanship.

Other rules changes approved by the committee clarifies that a goalkeeper who has been replaced by another goalkeeper during a stoppage of play may not re-enter until the next stoppage of play.

Also, another new rule changes the position of the puck during a faceoff to the location where the puck was last played, when the puck leaves the rink for any unnatural reason.

The committee also adopted five points of emphasis for the upcoming season.

The identified topics include obstruction, sportsmanship with a focus on obscene language and gestures, hits to the head, checking from behind, and body contact versus body-checking in girls' hockey.

Here is your first opportunity to "make the call" in some hockey situations.

Team A is always the offensive team, while Team B is always the defensive team in these situations. See the correct rulings at the end.

n Situation 1: Proud supporters of the home team, super fans Brandon, Aaron, Nick, Jon, Mike and another Brandon show up at the game with no shirts on and L A K E R S spelled with individual letters across their chests.

Is this an infraction of any rules?

nSituation 2: Team A does not commence starting play with the same players announced as its starting line up. Is this a penalty?

n Situation 3: Play is moving into the Team A attacking zone.

One of the Team A players skates into the neutral zone on the opposite side of the of the ice is restrained by a Team B player. Is this an infraction?

n Situation 4: Player A1 plays the puck with the stick while the puck is over the height of four feet.

Player B1 reaches with the hand and grazes the puck. A2 is the next to play the puck. Is this legal?

n Situation 5: When does a hockey game "officially" begin and end?

Situation 1 Ruling: Yes it is -- spectators must wear clothing that covers the entire torso.

Those who do not comply or who wear clothing that is vulgar, obscene or that in some other way inappropriate, as determined by school/tournament personnel, will be removed from the arena if they do not cooperate with this behavior expectation.

Bring your shirts next time boys.

Situation 2 Ruling: While this may be a infraction in other sports, such as baseball, softball and basketball, it is no longer a penalty in hockey.

Situation 3 Ruling: Yes, this is a minor penalty for interference. This is the intent of the rule for obstruction.

Situation 4 Ruling: Yes, play should be continued as B1's action constitutes playing the puck.

Situation 5 Ruling: The game begins when the teams enter the ice for warm-ups and ends when the teams are off the ice and in their dressing room. Penalties may be assessed at any time during "the game."

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