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Focus on Safety Continues with Winter Sports Rules Changes as 2016-17 Season Begins

Contact: John Johnson or Geoff Kimmerly
517.332.5046 or media@mhsaa.com

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Dec. 6 – Seasons are underway for teams participating in 12 winter sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments, with a continuing focus on safety highlighting rules changes taking effect with the first days of competition.

Beginning with ice hockey’s first games Nov. 14, six sports started play during the final weeks of November, while the rest will be underway by the end of this week; Wrestling on Dec. 7 and Boys and Girls Skiing on Dec. 10 will be the final winter sports to begin competition.

Basketball, wrestling and ice hockey are among sports with noticeable changes to enhance safety this winter. In basketball, a change has been made to further protect the free-throw shooter from being displaced immediately after attempting a shot. Players occupying marked free-throw lane spaces may enter the lane on the release of the ball but may not touch or cross the free-throw line extended, into the semicircle, until the ball is released and touches the ring or backboard. Other players not occupying marked lane spaces may not have either foot beyond the vertical plane of the free-throw line extended and the 3-point line which is farther from the basket until the ball touches the ring or until the free throw ends. Both are designed to keep the free-throw shooter free from contact and alone in the semicircle directly following the shot attempt.

Also in basketball, non-playing personnel including cheerleaders, media and school supervisors must remain outside the playing area during a timeout 30 seconds or shorter. Non-playing personnel also must remain throughout the game in the areas between the free-throw lines extended and sidelines, to provide a safer environment free of possible collisions for both playing and non-playing personnel.  

Officials will be on the lookout in wrestling for a hold that could lead to a competitor being dropped to the mat after a lift without the ability to use his or her arms to break the fall because they are trapped as part of the hold. If a wrestler, from a standing position, is placed in a body lock with one or both arms trapped, the offensive wrestler is required to safely return that defensive wrestler to the mat through a variety of legal moves. Officials will stop the match if a lift is coming or imminent that would result in the defensive wrestler being unable to break his or her fall because of an arm trap.

Hockey contact to the head or neck area will be penalized with multiple levels of severity in 2016-17, depending on the extent and intent of that contact. If contact to the head or neck area is deemed to be direct – that is, with the initial force of the contact occurring to the neck or head area – that contact will be considered a flagrant foul and result in a major penalty or game disqualification. If the contact is deemed indirect – with the initial force of the contact beginning below the neck and progressing upward to the head or neck area – the result will be a minor penalty unless the indirect contact is deemed by officials to be flagrant, which again will result in a major or game disqualification.

Also of note in hockey, all players (excluding goaltenders) must now take a stationary position on all faceoffs before the puck is dropped. By eliminating motion prior to faceoffs, this rule change is designed to also eliminate any possible advantage gained by players previously working for better position.

The 2016-17 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments beginning with the Upper Peninsula Girls and Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18, and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Boys Basketball
Districts – March 6, 8 & 10
Regionals – March 13 & 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25

Girls Basketball
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1 & 3
Regionals – March 7 & 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18

Girls & Boys Bowling
Team Regionals – Feb. 24
Singles Regionals – Feb. 25
Team Finals – March 3
Singles Finals – March 4

Girls Competitive Cheer
Districts – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals: March 3-4

Girls Gymnastics
Regionals – March 4
Team Finals – March 10
Individual Finals – March 11

Ice Hockey
Pre-Regionals – Feb. 27-March 3
Regional Finals – March 3-4
Quarterfinals – March 7-8
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11

Girls & Boys Skiing
Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27

Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving
U.P. Girls & Boys Finals – Feb. 18
L.P. Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
L.P. Boys Finals – March 10-11

Wrestling
Team Districts – Feb. 8-9
Individual Districts – Feb. 11
Team Regionals – Feb. 15
Individual Regionals – Feb. 18
Team Quarterfinals – Feb. 24
Team Semifinals & Finals – Feb. 25
Individual Finals – March 2-4 

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.

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