IIHF introduces incredibly strict late hit rule

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The IIHF already has significantly harsher rules than the NHL when it comes to hits to the head and fighting.

It is now adding late hits to that as well.

On Friday the IIHF revealed a new rule for the upcoming season that will penalize pretty much any late hit that takes place during a game. The rule, which goes in the books as rule 153, was put in place to differentiate between late hits and interference and it is going to be incredibly strict.

From the IIHF:

A late hit constitutes a bodycheck to an opponent who no longer has control or possession of the puck. The opponent may have been in control or possession of the puck when the defending player committed to making a bodycheck, but the checking player risks a penalty if the flow of the game is such that the opponent is no longer in control or possession of the puck and has completed his action with the puck by the time the bodycheck is made. A late hit can be delivered to an opponent who is either aware or unaware of the opponent making the late hit.

i. A player who is not in the immediate vicinity of an opponent in possession or control of the puck and still delivers a check to that opponent, who is aware of the impending contact, will receive a minor penalty.
ii. A player who delivers a late hit to an unsuspecting opponent will receive a major and automatic game-misconduct penalty.
iii. A player who recklessly endangers a vulnerable opponent by a late hit will be assessed a match penalty.

In other words, just about any contact after a player gets rid of the puck is going to be at least a minor penalty whether the hit was initiated when the player still had the puck or not, and whether or not the player is expecting or ready for the contact.

To see what that looks like in action, the IIHF has provided a four-minute video that provides examples of hits that will now be penalized. This will not be popular among the “finish your checks” crowd.

Compare all of this to the NHL which is very, very, very different with a lot more leniency for “finishing” your check. For the purposes of supplemental discipline, the NHL generally uses a time period for (usually around 0.8 seconds) what it determines to be a late hit (this became a big discussion when Ryan Reaves concussed Tom Wilson a couple of weeks ago without being suspended, even though he was ejected from the game). When it comes to penalties during games, as long as the check it initiated while the player still has the puck it is usually allowed to happen. It does not typically become interference unless the hit is initiated after the player has gotten rid of the puck.

How strictly this gets enforced and what impact it will have on the game will be fascinating to watch.

The whole point of a body check has always been to separate your opponent from the puck, but at some point over the years there became an increased fascination in checking just for the sake of checking and putting all of the blame on the player that had the puck for “not keeping their head up” or “watching their pass” when, in reality, they shouldn’t have to be worried about being hit. The IIHF looks to be making sure players don’t have to worry about it.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.