This year all associations in Quebec are implementing the new Novice Half-Ice program.
Rules for Half-Ice Novice Game Play
The rules for half-ice novice game play have been created to maximize player engagement by increasing opportunities to interact with the puck and other players. A simplified version of the game allows younger players to focus on elements of the game they enjoy most.
- 4 vs. 4 format – plus each team with a goaltender
- Each team is required to have two goaltenders, one for each half of the ice
- Three-minute warm-up
- Rink set-up:
- One set of barriers or two sets of barriers with a space in between for spare players
- Game length – 50 minutes (varies by region)
- Shift length – one minute in duration with an automatic buzzer or whistle sounding to indicate players change. The clock continues to run throughout the 25-minute half.
- Both games are synchronized
- Officials work together to keep the games synchronized.
- Players change on the fly
- If there are fewer than four players on the bench, the active player designated to stay out for the following shift must tag up at the bench prior to continuing play.
- There will be two face-offs during the game:
- The first face-off will start the game.
- The second face-off will start the second half.
- Player shifts are recommended to be one minute in length. A buzzer or whistle will sound to signal line changes.
- On the buzzer/whistle sounds, players must relinquish control of the puck immediately and vacate the ice. The new players enter the ice immediately.
- Failure to immediately relinquish control of the puck or new players entering the ice surface prematurely may result in a penalty (see below) for the offending team.
Change of Possession
- Goaltender freezes the puck – the official blows the whistle to indicate the attacking team backs off and the defending team gets possession.
- Puck shot out of play – the offending team backs off and the official gives the non-offending team a new puck.
- Minor penalties are noted with the official briefly raising their arm to indicate a penalty will be assessed. At the conclusion of the shift, the official notifies the coach of the infraction and the number of the offending player.
- If the offending team controls the puck after the infraction, the official blows the whistle and calls for a change of possession; the non-offending team is given room to play the puck (three-metre cushion).
- The offending player will sit out the next shift, but the team will play even strength.
- Should an infraction occur that would normally require a player to be ejected from the game (game misconduct, match penalty or gross misconduct), the player will be removed from the remainder of that game. Even under these circumstances, teams will not play shorthanded and no game incident report will be required.
Benefits of Half-Ice Hockey Games for Novice Players
Long-Term Player Development Model
Parents and coaches need to think long-term and not worry too much about children being the best player on the ice in Novice hockey. Research has proven that putting young players into a competitive environment too early will compromise their development. Children should only be placed into competitive situations that suit their skill level and abilities.
It is important to fully understand and appreciate the benefits of cross-ice and half-ice hockey and why Hockey Canada has a national policy ensuring all Initiation and Novice hockey is played in smaller, modified spaces.
You have to be able to make plays in pretty small areas. The more you practice in small spaces the better off you are.”
– Sidney Crosby,
Canada’s National Men’s Team
An illustration of very simple statistics illustrates highlight the advantages to the smaller surface games model.
Small spaces equate to more engagement in the play:
All players are close to the play at all times and have much more opportunity for puck touches. Regardless of the skill level or the ability of each player, their opportunities to be engaged in the play are doubled when the playing area is smaller.
A very large difference between full-ice and small areas:
There are six times as many shots at goal in a cross-ice or half-ice game, because players are closer to the puck at all times and the puck finds its way to the net much more often.
Shrinking the playing surface increases offence:
Players are much closer to the net, skate shorter distance from goal to goal and have increased opportunities for offensive play.
More of a team game is apparent:
Players are observed passing and attempting to pass the puck more often.
This is for two reasons:
- All players are close enough to pressure the puck more frequently.
- Teammates are in close support of the puck carrier at all times
Short, quick passes find their mark:
In smaller spaces, more passes are attempted and most of these passes are five to 10 feet in length. When passes are shorter, accuracy improves and players have more success receiving the pass. Players also start to understand the importance of team puck possession.
You need to be able to make quick passes and have quick communication. Small area games are important.”
– Brianne Jenner,
Canada’s National Women’s Team