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Guidelines Regarding Non-Sanctioned Play

USA Hockey 2016-2017 Annual Guide


USA Hockey and its Affiliates are charged with establishing rules and policies

for the organization, coordination and betterment of hockey, including

developing players, coaches and officials, and managing and minimizing risks

associated with the sport. Examples of recent rules and policies include the

American Development Model (ADM), cross-ice hockey for players 8 and

under, and processes and procedures for expansion of junior hockey programs.

USA Hockey strongly believes in these programs as evidenced by the

overwhelming support they have received across the country, the continuing

growth in membership, and the advances that have resulted and are expected

to result in the development of hockey players in our country.

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USA Hockey has had inquiries regarding the rights and obligations of USA

Hockey, its various Affiliates and local programs with respect to ice hockey

that is not sanctioned by USA Hockey. To provide guidance to Affiliates and

local programs, USA Hockey, as the National Governing Body for ice hockey

in the United States, provides the guidelines below acting pursuant to USA

Hockey’s authority under the Amateur Sports Act (36 U.S.C. § 220501 et.


A. For a game to be sanctioned by USA Hockey, all players, coaches and

officials in the game (“Individual Participants”) must be members of

USA Hockey and the USA Hockey Affiliate with jurisdiction over their

respective geographic area(s). Participating teams must also be members

of the applicable USA Hockey Affiliate.

B. There may be occasional exceptions to the above-stated membership

requirement where in certain limited, special circumstances, USA

Hockey or the applicable USA Hockey District Registrar may provide

a special event sanction for an event where not all participants are

members of USA Hockey (“Special Events”). These Special Events are

occasional and have generally been limited to exhibition games between

USA Hockey teams and High School Federation, prep schools or NCAA

teams, Try Hockey For Free programs, and charity games. The limited

nature of these exemptions is largely due to USA Hockey insurance and

risk management concerns.

C. Any Individual Participant may become a member of USA Hockey.

Membership in or registration with another sanctioning body may not be

used as a basis to deny membership in USA Hockey, its Affiliates or local

programs. Correspondingly, no Individual Participant may be penalized

for participating in a program that is not sanctioned by USA Hockey.

On the other hand, an Individual Participant may be disqualified from

membership for violation of USA Hockey Bylaws, Rules & Regulations

or Policies in accordance with USA Hockey’s Dispute Resolution


D. Affiliates may establish reasonable rules for compliance by such

Affiliate’s member organizations and/or teams seeking membership in or

who are already members of the Affiliate, provided that such rules do not

conflict with the Bylaws, Rules & Regulations, Policies or directives of

USA Hockey.

E. If a team desires to play in a USA Hockey sanctioned game, tournament

or event, then, unless it is sanctioned as a Special Event, the team and

its Individual Participants must be registered with USA Hockey and

the applicable Affiliate. Such registration implies and constitutes the

registrant’s agreement that the team and all of its Individual Participants

will be subject to the Bylaws, Rules & Regulations, Policies and Playing

Rules of USA Hockey and the reasonable requirements of membership

for the applicable Affiliate. The only exceptions to the requirement that

sanctioned games, tournaments and events require that the team and all

Individual Participants be registered with USA Hockey and the applicable

Affiliate, are for Special Events noted above, and circumstances where

the applicable USA Hockey registrar has approved such participation in

writing and in advance (see USA Hockey Rules & Regulations, Section


Annual Guide 43


F. Once an organization, team, or Individual Participant becomes a member

of USA Hockey and the applicable Affiliate, that Affiliate may require

that the member organization, team, and all Individual Participants

continue to comply with the reasonable requirements for membership

in the Affiliate. This may include, for example, such rules as coaching

certifications, background screening, equipment requirements, safety

mandates, and other rules, including the ADM and cross-ice hockey, and

such other reasonable requirements of a USA Hockey Affiliate.

G. An Affiliate may enforce a rule that prohibits its member teams from

participating in games or practices that are not sanctioned by USA

Hockey. Unless sanctioned as a Special Event, USA Hockey’s insurance

policies may not be available to cover USA Hockey programs, teams and

Individual Participants when participating in a game or practice among

or against a non-sanctioned team. A parent of a youth hockey player

that has registered with USA Hockey with the expectation of receiving

the benefits of such membership, should not be placed in a situation

where they may be surprised to learn after their child is injured that USA

Hockey insurance is not available because the injury occurred during a

non-sanctioned event.

H. An Affiliate may also enforce a rule that its member organizations must

register all of their teams and players with USA Hockey and the Affiliate.

If an Affiliate has such a rule, a member organization within that Affiliate

cannot register some of its teams with the Affiliate while other teams

in that organization are not registered with the Affiliate. Important

reasons for such a rule are so that neither USA Hockey nor its Affiliates

become liable for activities conducted by a member organization that is

also conducting non-sanctioned events, and to prevent the occurrence of

situations where USA Hockey’s insurance could potentially be asserted

to apply in a non-sanctioned event.

I. Despite the foregoing, if an Affiliate’s member organization or team

desires to play in events or games that are not sanctioned by USA

Hockey, they may seek a Special Event sanction for such game or event,

or they may also do so provided that certain other requirements are met.

A group of Individual Participants from a USA Hockey team playing in

a non-USA Hockey sanctioned event or game must do so as part of a

separate organization (for example, a separately incorporated corporation)

that is sufficiently distinct from the USA Hockey sanctioned program.

The non-sanctioned organization or team(s) should also have a separate

board of directors, the team cannot wear the same uniforms or have

the same team names, and all rink or vendor contracts relating to the

non-sanctioned team(s) or activities must be in the name of the separate

organization rather than the USA Hockey member organization or

team. A sanctioned program should have separate bank accounts from

the non-sanctioned organization. Additionally, sanctioned and nonsanctioned

programs should not be included in the same advertisements

or websites. Distinguishing teams participating in non-sanctioned events

or programs from teams that are members of USA Hockey will help avoid

making USA Hockey, its Affiliates or member organizations liable for

activities conducted in connection with non-sanctioned play; prevent

the occurrence of situations where USA Hockey’s insurance could

potentially be asserted to apply in a non-sanctioned event; and will also

help make Individual Participants (and their parents or guardians) aware

of which games or events are under USA Hockey rules and oversight and

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are covered by USA Hockey insurance and other benefits. For a violation

of these requirements, the team, coaches, administrators and/or program

may be subject to sanctions as determined by the Affiliate following a

hearing and any appeals provided in USA Hockey Bylaw 10.

J. USA Hockey Rules & Regulations, Section III., provides as follows:

Any youth player (male or female) rostered on a Tier I or Tier II youth or

girls’/women’s team and a Junior Program team as of December 31, can

only play for one team after December 31. Except for players playing

in Tier I or Tier II Junior hockey pursuant to the Youth/Junior Affiliate

Player Policy, if the player plays in a Junior game after December 31,

he/she loses all eligibility on his/her youth or girls’/women’s team for

the remainder of the season, regardless of how many games are played

at the Junior level.

This rule should be applied to any games played at the Tier III Junior

level with any organization. The purpose of this rule is that players

playing on youth teams during the latter half of the playing season should

not also be playing Junior hockey. Further, not having Junior players

participating in Youth national tournaments protects the integrity of the

USA Hockey National Championships. By applying the rule regardless of

the sanctioning body that governs the applicable Junior team, all Tier III

Junior teams are treated equally.

K. Affiliates and officials’ organizations may establish and use reasonable

criteria, rules and procedures for selection and scheduling of officials for

games within their jurisdiction. There are numerous valid reasons why

an Affiliate, officials’ organization or scheduler may select one official

over another for a particular game, league or level of play. For example, an

official’s experience in and availability for USA Hockey in season games

may be a factor to consider in evaluating officials for development or elite

progress, or USA Hockey District or National Tournaments. However,

no USA Hockey official may be penalized, threatened, excluded or made

ineligible for officiating USA Hockey games based on that official being

certified by or officiating games that are not sanctioned by USA Hockey

or are sanctioned by some other entity. Many USA Hockey officials work

games not under USA Hockey’s authority (e.g., NCAA, Canadian Hockey

League, East Coast Hockey League, High School Federation, etc.). To be

sure, an official will not receive the benefits of USA Hockey, including

insurance coverage, supervision, disciplinary processes and enforcement,

etc., while officiating a game not sanctioned by USA Hockey, and that

official is not permitted to wear a USA Hockey crest/patch on their jersey

during a game not sanctioned by USA Hockey. To reiterate, no Affiliate

may, and no Affiliate shall permit an officials’ organization or scheduler

under its control to, punish, threaten, blackball or make any official

ineligible for USA Hockey games, based on the official becoming certified

by another entity or officiating games that are not sanctioned by USA

Hockey. Most hockey programs and officials’ associations endeavor to

consider their officials to be independent contractors; to place restrictions

on officials from officiating non-sanctioned games may place that

independent contractor status at risk, and subject the hockey program or

officials’ association to other liabilities.

L. USA Hockey may amend or supplement these guidelines.

M. For questions related to these guidelines or other rule scenarios, please contact USA Hockey’s General Counsel.