Wednesday, May 30, 2012

9.2.7.1.2 A team refuses to field skaters on the track to continue play.

Today’s rule is the second subrule of 9.2.7.1, which explains when a head referee may call a forfeit. It is the second of only two subrules, the first having been covered yesterday. This rule is the one most commonly referred to during discussions of a team failing to field any Blockers on the track at the start of a jam. This is a situation that many people have asked about, but has no direct penalty enumerated in the rules. Even if a team fields just a Jammer in a jam, they are required to field at least one Blocker so that a pack may exist, per 4.1.1.3: 4.1.1.3 In order to form a pack, a team must have at least one Blocker on the track at all times. If at least one Blocker is not on the track from both teams, then play may not continue. Another requirement to play is that there exists at least one Jammer in the jam, since 7.4 includes several different rules that direct the referees to call off the jam if both Jammers are off the track, except in very specific situations. If the presence of Jammers on the track or in the penalty box meets the exception scenarios in 7.4, then play may continue. Otherwise, the absence of at least one Jammer would mean that play may not continue. At the point where play may not continue, and a jam is forced to be called off due to the absence of the required skaters to allow play to continue, today’s rule may come into play. There are actually various approaches I have seen discussed regarding this situation, so for posterity I will mention them all, and then explain which I prefer, and why. Every approach begins with the jam being started, and then immediately being called off, due to the lack of the minimum required skaters to continue play. They also all end with a warning that a forfeit may be called should the team fail to field enough skaters to continue play again. 1) Because the jam was forced to be called off, issue the active Pivot a major penalty (or the captain in the absence of an active Pivot), similar to issuing a penalty when a jam is called due to being unable to remove an extra skater. 2) Since the jam was called, and another 30 seconds must elapse before the next jam may start, take a timeout from the offending team, as they have effectively forced an extra timeout without penalty. 3) After the jam is called, call an official timeout, issue the forfeit warning, then start the next jam promptly. While many may feel as if approach 1 and/or 2 seem an appropriate response to the action, the rules actually don’t support either. In approach 1, a major is issued, however there is no penalty enumerated for this particular situation, thus one can’t be made up on the spot. Regarding approach 2, the rules are very clear about how a team takes a timeout, and when they may do so. If the referees stop a jam because of inability to continue play, that is different than a team calling a timeout with the required hand signal, by the required personnel (the captain or designated alternate), or at the allowed time (between jams). My personal preference is approach 3. Although it seems as if the offending team is going unpenalized, that is because they effectively are. The rules do not have a penalty or really a rule to penalize or disadvantage a team that has caused a jam to be called off due to inability to continue play. However, as soon as the jam is called, as head referee, I would go straight to the captain and/or designated alternate for that team and explain that any further failure to field enough skaters to continue play would be considered their refusal, and I would then call a forfeit. This approach may not seem “right” to some people, but it is supported by the rules, and the rules are what govern us. If anyone else has another approach that I didn’t mention, I would like to hear what it is. After all, because this situation isn’t addressed by the rules, there may not be one appropriate approach to deal with the situation.

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