Full speed ahead for headshot rule

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:12 PM ET

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With the momentum of a speeding forechecker, it seems a rule change penalizing checking to the head is steaming ahead for the NHL.

Concussions and headshots were discussed at length at the two-day NHL’s board of governors meetings that wrapped up today. Videos were shown of blindside hits and shots from the side to bring the governors up to speed on what was discussed at the general managers’ meetings last month.

“To hit a player who can’t anticipate or can’t avoid (the hit), it’s not a safe hit. I think we have to take it out,” said Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke. “To me, there has to be a shift where, when a player gets in that position to hit a player and that player is vulnerable and unsuspecting – it’s like the stop sign on the back of the jerseys with youth hockey in Canada – at that point you have to pull up. Or hit him, but don’t get him in the head.”

Burke pointed to the hit from the side by Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards on Florida Panther David Booth, which saw the latter sustain a concussion. Booth never saw Richards coming.

“The hit on Booth, the player that drilled him could have still drilled him but he didn’t have to get him in the head,” Burke said.

It’s likely the GMs will draft a rule at their meetings in Florida in March for the competition committee and board of governors to consider.

“It’s a high-priority item in those meetings and the league has done a lot of research on it. There have been committees put in place to acquire information. When we get the data we can at least put rules in place based on data and not assuming things. I think you’ll see something coming out of the (GMs’) meetings in Florida,” said San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “There has been enough discussion by a lot of people. These discussions have been going on for a couple of years. We’re wise not to have a knee-jerk reaction. The reality we’re dealing with now is the game is played at a different speed, a different pace.

“It’s much faster than when I played.”

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was emphatic when the topic of a second team for the Toronto area was brought up by the media and whether or not the Leafs had the veto power to stop expansion or a relocation into the area.

“There...is...no...veto,” said Bettman, speaking slowly for emphasis. “There are two votes that from a constitutional and bylaw standpoint that would be important: the relocation of a franchise requires a majority vote. Period. End of story. No veto. The grant of an expansion team, because that’s also a new owner and a new team, requires a three-quarter vote. No vetoes. I understand that there’s ongoing confusion about that point but there shouldn’t be.”

• • •

It’s expected that as part of the deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to Ice Edge Holdings, the franchise will be granted a full portion of the league’s revenue-sharing plan even though the Coyotes will not meet the criteria to qualify. Portions of a team’s revenue sharing can be clawed back if it fails to meet attendance and revenue goals. “What was discussed was that it was a possibility and there didn’t seem to be any objection in the room, although we didn’t take a formal vote,” said Bettman. “Obviously the club is coming off extraordinary circumstances; circumstances that nobody had anticipated and not really the way the clawback was designed, for a situation like that.”

Since revenue sharing is governed by the CBA, is it possible the NHLPA could object? “Well, the answer is perhaps because it’s really just a question of how we pay up. We can either pay it out of the system or we can assess the clubs if we decide to do that. It is something we probably will discuss with the players’ association at the appropriate time. But it’s something that the league on its own can do in terms of how we distribute monies.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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