Leading off today:
Assuming they commit a slash later this week, would members of the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee be sent to the penalty box for 90 seconds or would it be two full minutes?
The 22-member committee gathers Friday in Saratoga Springs for its quarterly meeting, and one of the important items on the agenda is a scheduled vote to rescind a major rules change in ice hockey.
If they do so, games in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament in early March will revert to 15-minute periods with minor infractions returning to just 90 seconds served in the penalty box. It would be a significant, disruptive change for the 16 total teams reaching the state quarterfinals in two divisions after playing a regular season with 17-minute periods and two-minute minor penalties (and 4:00 and 7:30 majors that would also be adjusted).
The move to longer periods and penalties went into effect in November, causing many if not most coaches to change philosophies and strategies. Inconsequential on the surface to casual observers, the extra 30 seconds in the penalty box has made it more difficult for teams to kill off shorthanded situations by means of using the same four skaters for most if not all of the shift.
Coaches have had to dig deeper into their bench for penalty-killers and have put increased emphasis on avoiding penalties.
So what's happening -- and why -- this week?
In July 2017, the NYSPHSAA Central Committee approved increasing the length of games to three 17-minute periods beginning this season. The organization representing ice hockey officials filed a grievance last year seeking 13 percent more money for working state tournament games as a result of the increased time on the ice.
A fact-finding committee sided with the officials and recommended increasing the fee by 13 percent, which caused the NYSPHSAA's Championship Advisory Committee (CAC) to recommend returning to 15-minute periods. The state hockey committee consisting of representatives from each section opposes the CAC's recommendation.
The CAC's recommendation wasn't made as a matter of dollars and cents since only 14 playoff games over the final two weekends would be subject to the higher officials fees and the arbitration process probably cost the parties at least as much as what the increased pay would amount to this year for all officials combined. Rather, it's a matter of governance. The CAC is the body that makes recommendations for state championship fees every three years, setting the stipends as an average of what the respective sections pay officials to work their own championships leading up to state tournaments.
The recent 9-2 vote by the CAC to recommend reverting to 15-minute periods in effect says it's not good policy to amend rates in the middle of the three-year cycle.
"The concern from some is that if we give the hockey officials the raise, we would be setting our process aside," NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas told me this weekend.
And while that may seem petty or bureaucratic, there is a case to be made for not setting a precedent. Going against policy on one matter has a funny way of getting a group dragged back into arbitration (or the courtroom) on another policy.
There may be room for reconsideration before the matter comes up for a vote Friday because there in fact does seem to be precedent for making changes midstream. Zayas has been digging through NYSPHSAA policies and past decisions in anticipation of questions likely to come from the floor on Friday and will advise the Executive Committee that the existing policy governing officials fees doesn't preclude recalculating in the middle of the three-year period in recognition of a significant rules change in a sport.
Zayas' idea would increase the hockey officials fee from $103 to $111.76 per game this season and potentially make another tweak for the 2020 tournament in recognition that some sections are in the midst of negotiations with their officials to address the increased time on the ice.
An unhappy surprise: I wasn't able to attend the inaugural NYSPHSAA wrestling dual-meet championships a year ago, so I was eager to make the trip to this year's event at SRC Arena on the Onondaga Community College campus.
The quality of the competition did not surprise me at all. There were hiccups in the qualifying process earlier in the month -- weather reduced the field for the Section 3 tournament and forced cancellation of the Section 6 qualifier -- but there were 24 rock-solid teams competing Saturday.