Offsides from Mites to Midgets
Let’s start with a quick definition. According to USA Hockey, “Off-sides occurs when players of an attacking team precede the puck into the attacking zone.” What that means is if you have the puck, you need to be the first to cross the blue line on the way to the net. No passing to players on the other side of the blue line. No parking players in front of the net and passing to them. Let’s see how offsides breaks down for the various levels of youth hockey.
8U: No Offsides
Since the 8 & Under Mites play cross-ice and half-ice games, they have no physical blue lines to work with. But that’s not really why they don’t have the rule. Joe Doyle, USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager, emphasizes “using early ice time more wisely” by focusing Mites on basic skills that will make them better players at ages 12, 14 and 16. “Let’s not worry too much about the ‘game’ for an 8- or 10-year-old looking exactly as it does for 20- or 24-year-old college and pro players,” he says. “If we focus on teaching young players individual skills, when their bodies are most receptive to learning them, and progress to ‘team concepts’ a little later in their development, we will give kids a better long term chance to play the game at higher levels. And the many skating, shooting, and playmaking skills kids learn from playing cross- or half-ice games will help the kids be better players long term.”
Parents should not worry that players are learning offsides “too late” as Squirts, says Doyle. “Offsides is a simple hockey concept that kids quickly learn when they transition from cross-ice or half-ice to full-ice games. The increased cognitive ability of a 9- or 10-year-old makes it much easier for coaches to teach offsides at that age in just a practice or two. And really, how difficult is to teach or coach offsides? Certainly not near as difficult to learn as the all-important skills of skating, shooting.”
Squirts & PeeWees: Immediate Offsides
Immediate offsides is what you’re accustomed to seeing in youth hockey—an attacking player is in the attack zone before the puck crosses the blue line, the whistle blows (you hope) and play stops immediately. (If you zone out as soon as we start to bring up “attack” and “zone,” think of it this way: Your little darling cannot pass from the middle or far end of the ice to a player conveniently waiting in front of your net to score. No, that is not an assist and a goal—it’s offsides.) A faceoff then occurs on the closest faceoff circle in the neutral zone. Watch an NHL or college game and you quickly realize that this is not how they do it.
In fact, according to The Fire: The Florida Mite Report explains, “For young hockey parents learning the rules, games on TV might not be a good example. Take offsides. Why can NHL players ‘tag up’ while the puck is over the line while in youth hockey it’s an automatic whistle? At least the blue line doesn’t move like the last defender in soccer!”
The Fire’s article goes on to explain the rationale for immediate offsides for Squirts and PeeWees: “The answer is that USA Hockey is trying to teach the concept of puck possession. Pros can throw the puck in if they want, but if you took that option away they would string together a few passes for a center ice regroup. Of course, this [all the offsides calls] can make younger player’s games difficult to watch.”
Tag-Up Offsides: Bantams & Midgets—New for 2011–2012
With all the excitement about the new body-checking rules, USA Hockey’s second major rule change for the 2011–2012 season generated little interest. But you can find one quick sentence in USA Hockey’s 2011–2013 Official Rules of Ice Hockey booklet: “Tag-up off-sides will be used at Bantam age level and above.”
What this means is that attacking players can be on the other side of the blue line when the puck crosses the line—they just can’t do anything. The players need to get out of their attack zone, ignoring the puck and other players, until a skate touches the blue line (tagging it, essentially). Then, they can dive back into the play. If any attacking players touch the puck before all offsides players tag-up, offsides is called and a faceoff occurs.
For more details on the offsides rule, see Rule 630 starting on page 75 of the USA Hockey 2011–2013 Official Rules of Ice Hockey booklet.
Editor's Note: Thank you to The Fire and Joe Doyle from USA Hockey for their assistance with this story.
Fatal error: Call to undefined function wp_related_posts() in /nfs/c03/h06/mnt/57119/domains/phoenixcoyotescare.com/html/wp-content/themes/PhoenixCoyotesCare/single.php on line 32