Marketa Zayonc (third from the left), introduces JAGS participants to the basics of the sled on Thursday at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. (Photo -- Lou Reuter, Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

Ten of the biggest MIAA winter sports modifications – The Patriot Ledger

The winter sports season is delayed, but it’s still just around the corner with Dec. 14 now the first day of tryouts for MIAA teams. (Individual leagues might even push that start date back even further.)
Things won’t look as drastically different as they did in the fall, when 11-on-11 field hockey shrunk to a 7v7 game, soccer eliminated headers and throw-ins, and football was nowhere to be found. But there will be some notable modifications made to winter sports as everyone tries to stay as safe as possible as we transition to mostly indoor sports — an added complication during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
First, a reminder that indoor track has joined football in being pushed back to Fall 2 (Feb. 22-April 25) and that wrestling has been bumped all the way to the spring (April 26-July 3), leaving only basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics and skiing in their regular winter slots.
More:No MIAA playoffs, but basketball, hockey will look familiar this winter
The MIAA website has the full list of rules modifications and guidelines. As was the case in the fall, it goes into agonizing detail, including seven bullet points on how to properly pack a gym bag and four bullet points on hydration. If you’re interested in minutiae, hydration stations are not allowed. These include “water cows” (??), “water troughs” (?!?) and “water fountains” (didn’t the oldtimers call these “bubblers”?).
Anyway, here is a list of the 10 biggest changes facing winter athletes:
1) Face coverings for everyone ***: Start with the obvious. Players, coaches, officials and fans have to be masked up. This will be particularly challenging in hockey with helmets, face shields and mouthpieces already in the mix. *** NOTE: “Everyone” does not include gymnasts and swimmers in competition.
2) No locker rooms: Per guidelines from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), they are closed for anything other than toilet use. Fans won’t notice this, unless they get there early enough to see players traipsing into gyms or hockey rinks in full uniform.
3) Roster limits: Game-day rosters for basketball are limited to 15 players and three coaches. (There are rumors that some leagues might opt for the stricter 12-player limit that was originally on the table.) Hockey rosters are limited to 20 players (down from 22), and that number might have to be further reduced depending on individual rinks’ ability to provide enough space for social distancing.
4) No halftime in basketball: With no locker-room access, this makes sense. There are also no cheerleaders or concession sales allowed in gyms, so there would be no halftime entertainment or meal breaks for fans anyway.
5) No jump balls: The traditional start to basketball games is replaced by a coin toss to determine who gets the first possession. Your new 6-9 center became just a bit less valuable.
6) No inbounds plays under the basket: Your fears of no offensive players being allowed in the lane did not come true, but to reduce clogging a little there, offensive plays in the frontcourt will be inbounded at the foul line extended.
More:Giving thanks for MIAA sports, minus football, in this imperfect fall
7) Free throws numbers game: According to the modifications, “To limit congestion and contact, free throw lanes will be limited to four players” during foul shots. If you add in the shooter, though, this gives the offensive team a 3-on-2 edge. The Patriot League, fearful of teams intentionally missing free throws to try to take advantage of the imbalance, is amending the rule to just allow two defenders and no shooting-team players in the lanes. So, goodbye offensive rebounds on missed free throws.
More:MIAA Board of Directors delays start of winter season to Dec. 14
8) Checking in boys hockey is OK: You were worried about this being outlawed, weren’t you? Rest easy; it’s allowed, although scrums along the boards are limited to 1v1 (third player in is an automatic stoppage of play) and the battle can’t last for more than 5 seconds. There’s no specific wording on wild, bench-clearing brawls, but we’ll assume those are frowned upon.
9) Virtual meets are OK: Swimming/diving and gymnastics teams can compete separately in their own pools/gyms and compare scores after the fact. In-person competitions in both sports are limited to dual meets.
10) Quiet!: No cheering allowed on the pool deck at swim meets. As anyone who has ever attended a swim meet can tell you, it gets loud. Real loud. But not anymore.

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