New NFHS Rules Closer Than Ever To Rules of Hockey

Feb. 21, 2011, 8 a.m. (ET)

With the adoption of the requirement that the ball must leave the circle on a penalty circle before a goal can be scored and umpires now being able to penalize misconduct with both a 5-minute and 10-minute yellow card, the NFHS rules are more aligned than ever with Rules of Hockey.  However, there is still one rule difference that is particularly problematic for the development of players and umpires with the most diverse experience.


In NFHS games, the ball no longer needs to be “controlled” but must now leave the circle on a penalty corner before a goal can be scored. This change, which matches penalty corner governance in the Rules of Hockey dating to 2003, embeds another important though subtle change impacting the management of penalty corners.

In previous years, the conditions for scoring on a penalty corner in NFHS games had to be met before a shot could be taken. Now, the NFHS rules governing penalty corners align with the Rules of Hockey, permitting the ball to be hit, flicked or pushed towards the goal-line even though a goal cannot be scored. This is exactly the same as the penalty corner is governed in youth, college and club games.


Umpires officiating NFHS games are now able to penalize misconduct with either a 5-minute or 10-minute yellow card. Although umpires have even more flexibility in games governed by the Rules of Hockey, this new option for NFHS games is a welcome change.


The most important remaining difference between the new NFHS rules and the Rules of Hockey is that in the NFHS rules some defenders (goalkeepers) are allowed to stop shots using their stick above their shoulders while at the same time other defenders are not. This poses the most significant difficulty for umpires because:

  • In NFHS games if a non-goalkeeper uses his stick above his shoulder to stop a shot it's a penalty stroke
  • In all other games if a non-goalkeeper uses his stick above his shoulder to stop a shot it's "play on"

This can be especially difficult if an umpire is officiating, for example, a high school game in the morning and a college game in the afternoon, or vice versus.

Less significant but remaining differences in the NFHS rules include that:

  • Umpires do not manage goalkeeper substitutions
  • Goalkeepers can substitute at the back-line rather than the center-line
  • Teams are required to play with a fully kitted goalkeeper
  • Any injured player can be substituted on a penalty corner
  • Substitutions can happen on penalty corners before the penalty corner has ended


Many of the dozen or so other changes to the NFHS rule were editorial in nature, correcting or otherwise clarifying passages in last year’s NFHS rules book associated with the introduction of the Self-Pass option and Indirect Circle Entry requirements.

The NFHS also made changes in the section of its rules book covering misconduct in the team area (i.e. conduct of coaches, team personnel and substitutes who are not in the game). The changes clarify, for example, that a green card should be issued to the head coach and other offender, if any, for a first offense. Further, it stipulates that either the 5-minute or 10-minute yellow card can be issued for team area violations.

Finally, additional changes were made to the section of its rules book called the Officials Guide. These changes updated the guidance for umpires concerning player misconduct, issuing cards (reasons and procedures) and clarifying the umpire's role when addressing player misconduct.

Have we missed any remaining differences? If so, let us know! Submit your comments to the ASK THE UMPIRE feature by clicking here.
For a copy of the rule changes document released by the NFHS, please click here. It is best if this document is reviewed at the same time as the 2010 NFHS field hockey rule book.