Face masks and dangerous play – update for 2022

Here is the note of Rule change regarding the wearing of face-masks effective 1st January 2022.

Rule 4.2 was changed to allow for defending players using Penalty Corner protective equipment to continue to play the ball outside the circle after intercepting during the taking of a penalty corner.
Players can now continue to run with the ball while keeping their protective equipment on but they must remove that same equipment immediately after the first opportunity to do so and
always inside the 23 m area. No player using PC protective equipment can play the ball outside the 23 m area at any time.

A few days ago a question was posted to the Facebook Hockey Rules Discussion Group about the permitted wearing of face-masks:-

Had an umpire penalise a defender for running out of D with ball wearing face mask after she picked the ball at a short corner. I thought it was the 25 she could run to with mask on

That defenders are permitted to wear face-masks (and additional protection) during the taking of a penalty corner is a tacit acknowledgement by the FIH RC that the penalty corner presents a potentially dangerous situation for defenders.

The Rule concerning face-masks:-

Field players -are permitted to wear a smooth preferably transparent or single coloured face mask or metal grill face mask, which follows the contours of the face, when defending a penalty corner or penalty stroke for the duration of that penalty corner or penalty stroke including the immediate taking of a free hit awarded after a penalty corner when passing the ball to another player; the primary objective of wearing a face mask to defend a penalty corner is safety; wearing of face masks which are consistent with the underlying spirit of this guidance should be allowed;

– are not permitted, when wearing face masks, to conduct themselves in a manner which is dangerous to other players by taking advantage of the protective equipment they wear;– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances.

That is the current Rule as far as I am able to discover. Nothing there about taking a face mask off as soon as possible or allowing a player in possession of the ball to move with it to the 23m line, although both were I think part of previous Rule.

I think this “– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances” severely limits what a defender, wearing a face-mask and in possession of the ball, may do, but it is not explicit about what such a defender may or may not do.

I doubt it includes dribbling the ball as far as the 23m line.

A defender wearing a face-mask is (for safety reasons) dealt with in a heavy handed way compared with the limitations placed on a player taking a shot with a drag-flick or deflecting the ball high towards the goal from close range during a penalty corner – such shooters are told they must not play the ball dangerously, but what does that mean? I can’t recall ever seeing a drag-flick at the goal penalised as dangerous play (although doubtless many do endanger opponents). The received ‘wisdom’ which is referred to as THE interpretation (From who?), is that defenders should not position themselves where they could be endangered – which is an illogical inversion of Rule.

The Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m clearly state that during a penalty corner, a shot may not be made in a dangerous way (in a way that endangers an opponent – i.e. puts him at risk of injury). Common sense suggests that these instructions – see Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9 – apply to any shot taken at the goal in any phase of play.

There is nothing at all to be found in the Rules concerning the positioning of a defender when defending his own goal. But Umpire Managers (and the Royal Dutch Hockey Board) have taken it upon themselves to declare that a defender positioned on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules. Umpires should of course ignore that bizarre and dangerous statement. That statement can be heard on the video made as Umpire Briefing for the Rio Olympics, but another version of it was heard during match commentary at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The idiots are nothing if not persistent.

Has the 2022 amendment made any difference at all to the way that players and umpires conduct themselves? How reasonable or realistic is it to demand of a player in possession of the ball and under opposition pressure while defending, that he remove a face-mask or remain within his own 23m area? Is it less dangerous to himself or others for a defender to continue wearing a face mask indefinitely within the 23m area? Is there any recorded example of injury to an opponent by a player wearing a face-mask or is all this ‘danger’ just supposition?

How many recorded examples of injury to a defender from a drag-flick shot are there? Hundreds? Thousands?

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