If #hockey was easy they’d call it football

Osaka, the newest brand shaking things up in the hockey market, wrote it on it’s new T-shirt line  “If #hockey was easy, they’d call it football” . A bold statement some might say. But most likely you’ll support it if you have experienced hockey… However the latest change in rules, the so called “own goal” rule undermines this IMHO…

I think all of us in the hockey family would agree the recent rule changes have made our sport more exciting, both for players and supporters. It is one of the distinct advantages our sport can be proud of. The ability to reinvent ourselves step by step, little by little. Keeping up with the fast-paced world. A feature so cruelly lacking in the world’s most popular sport football… Some of these rule changes that had a major impact on our sport were:

  • The cancellation of the off-side rule, allowing teams a choice between playing more compact or spread out and a greater variety in tactics.
  • The introduction of substitutions without limitations to add even more energy to the game.
  • The self pass allowing for even more speed and less interruptions.

However not all rule changes were equally well received. The reception of the high ball, although not that complicated, is not being judged consistently by referees already in trouble of following a high speed game. And therefore is not only frustrating for the players but  hard to follow even for the experienced hockey supporters. But by far the most disputed rule change is the one from the “own goal rule”. It has always been a crucial part of our game that a touch within the “circle” by an attacker is mandatory to count the goal.  The new so-called “own goal” rule changed that fact to the ball needing to be touched in the circle, it doesn’t matter anymore if this is an attacker or a defender. A small change maybe but it makes a big difference on the pitch.

A reason often stated in favor of the new rule, allowing for own goals, is that it would make it easier for spectators not used to the sport to understand the game.

The major reason against would be it making the sport more dangerous again. Another and somewhat disputed rule change from some years ago intended to prevent free hits near the circle to be hit very hard directly into the circle towards a group of players hoping for a touch. They even created new markings on our pitch for this (the dotted line 5 meter from each circle) so free hits would not be drilled in anymore. Main reason for this was making it less dangerous. The own goal rule has exactly the opposite effect. From almost every game situation it is an invitation to fierce hits into the circle, preferably aimed at a group of players and as hard as you can hoping for a bad control from whomever, deflecting the ball into the net at lightning speed. No one will dispute it creates dangerous situations…

I understand the need to make our sport more “media-friendly” and am not opposed to sometimes trying out something new, even if it’s seem to change the essence of our sport at first glance. However… once it is clear it is not a good rule it should be back to normal as soon as possible. I have not met a top coach who agrees this own goal rule is a good one and as for the players themselves? Well nothing illustrates it better than this one tweet from a recognized top player (5 times best player of the world) :

Not all changes work out for the best. If people from outside of hockey don’t understand the simple rule that a ball has to be touched by an attacker in the circle to score a goal… well frankly that’s their problem. I have never understood the game of cricket and still it’s thriving in the world. Golf is a game full of quaint little rules but still one of he fastest growing sports all over the world. If you’re interested in our fast paced game, well make the effort and learn some of the basics to enjoy the game.

Back to normal : “Kill the own goal rule! Please!”