Major League Lacrosse has announced a new face-off rule effective at the start of the 2016 season. Players will no longer be allowed to carry the ball in the back of their stick, according to Major League Lacrosse.
“The Rules Committee thought that the college rule which we have adopted for facing off worked very well last year throughout the college ranks,” said Denver Outlaws General Manager and member of MLL Rules Committee, Tony Seaman. “It allows college face-off men coming into the League a better chance to make an impact.”
Face-offs are held at the beginning of each period and after each goal as the ball is placed between the sticks of two players at the center of the field. Upon the whistle from an official, each face-off specialist tries to control the ball. Previously, players were allowed to clamp the ball in the back of their stick, pick it up, and carry it down the field. While it is still legal to clamp the ball with the back of the stick, now it “must be moved, raked or directed immediately,” according to the 2016 MLL Rule Book. Immediately is defined as within one step.
“The new rule will really require each individual to be a true face-off athlete,” said Boston Cannons face-off specialist,Craig Bunker. “It will also require complete coordination by the face-off unit, as the draw will now have more groundball opportunities.”
This change comes after the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new face-off rule change in 2014 prohibiting face-off specialists from picking up and carrying the ball in the back of their stick in order to promote competitive balance. By following suit with its new face-off rule change, the MLL Rules Committee believes the consistency between the collegiate and professional game will benefit future players, officials, and fans.
“We use college referees in the MLL. This helps them with consistency from refereeing a college game and then refereeing an MLL game,” said Ohio Machine Head Coach and member of MLL Rules Committee, Bear Davis. “This makes it easier for the fans to follow. The more differences in the rules between levels, the harder it becomes for the general fan to follow.”
While collegiate athletes entering the League may experience a smoother transition, many current face-off specialists will be forced to change their technique in order to comply with the new rule.
“I think for League vets, like myself and Anthony Kelly, it won’t be a big deal,” said 2015 Coca-Cola Most Valuable Player and New York Lizards face-off specialist, Greg Gurenlian. “When I was drafted in 2006 there was a severe learning curve. It was the wild west and you could easily get chewed up and spit out quickly if you couldn’t figure it out in a hurry. This will help usher in the new generation.”
While the face-off rules are similar between collegiate and professional play, they are not identical. The main differences between the new MLL and Collegiate face-off rules are the cadence and penalties. In MLL play, face-offs begin once the official has placed the ball on the ground, walks away and initiates a swizzle, which is a “set” call followed by a quick whistle. This differs from NCAA play in which an official places the ball on the ground, calls “set” and steps away to blow the whistle. Finally, in MLL play, there are no technical penalties issued after three false starts on a face-off.
The 2016 MLL Season will kick off with the new face-off change on April 23, 2016.