GMs agree to head-hit proposal

CanWest News Service
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NHL

The National Hockey League has taken a first step in cracking down on hits to the head.

On the final day of the league's meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., a proposed rule change was agreed to by all 30 NHL general managers. The new rule will allow referees to assess minor or major penalties on all head hits.

The proposal states: "A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

The National Hockey League has taken a first step in cracking down on hits to the head.

On the final day of the league's meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., a proposed rule change was agreed to by all 30 NHL general managers. The new rule will allow referees to assess minor or major penalties on all head hits.

The proposal states: "A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

The GM's recommendation now moves on to the NHL and NHLPA competition committee for review. Following that, if approved, the proposal goes to the league's board of governor's for final review and approval.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman indicated the timing was appropriate for the league to get the ball rolling towards a safer arena for its players.

"We're not going to accept contact to the head," he told the NHL Network on Wednesday at the conclusion of the meetings.

"Whether it's a targeted act or the principal point of contact was the head itself, and that's in response to what we've been seeing in the games being played. And most importantly as a method of better protecting our players from injury and their heads."

Toronto GM Brian Burke said, this season, tagged with a black eye thanks to a deluge of head hits, meant the time had come for a change.

"We've been wrestling with this issue for a dozen years now," Burke said to the NHL Network. "In my mind, with the revolution of the game, we've created a new hitting zone. . . . Players were taking advantage of that and we've got to stop it."

Burke, a longtime proponent of aggressive hockey, believes the new regulation won't diminish the physical aspects of the game. He said that last weekend's hit to the head by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on Boston star Marc Savard - resulting in a potentially season-ending concussion - is a good example.

"If you watch (that) hit, he could have still hit him. We want the hit, but we want it to be a body-to-body hit. We don't think it will minimize or reduce hitting in any way."

A hit that will still be allowed under the rules is one where a player's shoulder strikes the head of an opponent in a head-on collision. The classic example of that type of play is the hit New Jersey's Scott Stevens threw on Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2000 playoffs.

Players will be quick to adapt, contends Washington general manager George McPhee.

"Once we explain (the rule) to them, they will adjust, they always do. They're smart and we just need some time now, and we have some new terms - back pressure and lateral-side hit, blind-side hit - you need time to define those to the players, explain the rule to the players and explain it to the referees. It can't be done overnight but it will be done for next year," McPhee told the NHL Network.

The general manager's three-day meeting produced two other recommendations:

The tiebreaking formula at the end of the season will include only regulation and overtime wins and not shootout victories. If passed, the new rule will put more emphasis on a regulation win as opposed to a shootout win.

Not surprisingly, Florida GM Randy Sexton is for it - the Panthers would have made the playoffs last season had shootout wins been taken out of the picture.

"I'm pleased about that. I clearly recognize the importance of the shootout, our fans love it, but hockey's a team game and we need to decide games as a team," he told the NHL Network.

The NHL is encouraging the American Hockey League adopt a four-man officiating crew for 40 per cent of its games. The NHL is prepared to off-set the cost. At present, the AHL only uses a three-man crew.

NO SUSPENSION FOR COOKE

(Canwest News Service) - Pittsburgh Penguins' forward Matt Cooke will not be suspended following a hit to the head of Boston Bruin centre Marc Savard last weekend.

Cooke knocked Savard out of Sunday's game in Pittsburgh with a blindside hit. Savard had just finished releasing a shot on goal when he was hit. The 32-year-old suffered a Grade 2 concussion and there is speculation he could miss the rest of the season.

NHl disciplinarian Colin Campbell decided not to suspend Cooke for a hit that will be used as a textbook example of what isn't allowed under a proposed rule change that should take effect next season.

Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli lobbied Campbell to suspend Cooke based on the fact he's a repeat offender and said he was upset it didn't happen.

"I'm both surprised and angered," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said on a conference call. "It's really disappointing."

Organizations: National Hockey League, The GM, American Hockey League Philadelphia Flyers Panthers Canwest News Service Pittsburgh Penguins Boston Bruin

Geographic location: Boca Raton, Fla., Pittsburgh, New Jersey Washington

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Recent comments

  • Hughesey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I hope this proposal gets tons of support. I

    t is such a shame for these athletes to train all their lives in a sport they love only to be forced into retirement in their 20's because of repeat concussions and/or other head injuries.

    I feel the helmets and other protective equipment that players wear these days give them a false sense of security. It has been proven again and again that career (and sometimes life) ending injuries can still occur. And still this equipment must be worn and worn correctly to work as it should (ie: fasten the chin strap on your helmet, or you don't play!)

    Again, I hope this proposal can be adopted.

    It's been a long time coming.

  • Hughesey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    I hope this proposal gets tons of support. I

    t is such a shame for these athletes to train all their lives in a sport they love only to be forced into retirement in their 20's because of repeat concussions and/or other head injuries.

    I feel the helmets and other protective equipment that players wear these days give them a false sense of security. It has been proven again and again that career (and sometimes life) ending injuries can still occur. And still this equipment must be worn and worn correctly to work as it should (ie: fasten the chin strap on your helmet, or you don't play!)

    Again, I hope this proposal can be adopted.

    It's been a long time coming.