NHL board faces up to head shots
PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
|Blue Jackets defenceman Fedor Tyutin elbows Flames forward Mikael Backlund in the head in Calgary, Alta., Dec. 13, 2010. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)
NEW YORK - The NHL is taking further aim at hits to the head, as governors Tuesday approved rule changes designed to arrest the growing number of player concussions.
Adopting recommendations made by their GMs and the competition committee, the governors removed the term “lateral or blind side” in the description of illegal hits to the head, which means it no longer matters where the hitter comes from.
Brendan Shanahan, NHL vice-president of player safety and hockey operations, says the change removes a grey area.
“The confusion some of the players have expressed in the past, as to what direction they’re approaching a player, what direction a player is facing — whether he’s east-west, whether it’s north-south — that has all been taken out,” Shanahan said. “Anywhere on the ice, coming from any direction, if you target the head and make the head the principal point of contact, you’ll be subject to a two-minute penalty. You’ll also be subject to supplemental discipline.”
That supplemental discipline will also be harsher, as Shanahan plans a crackdown on head hunters.
“It’s been communicated to me from our owners, GM’s and players that they want certain acts suspended more severely,” he said.
Toronto president/GM Brian Burke says expanding Rule 48 after one year makes sense.
“We’re walking a tightrope,” Burke said. “We need to raise the bar for those types of hits without getting crazy. People say, ‘Why don’t they just give 50 games every time there’s one of these?’ If we do that we’re going to get to a game where there’s no hitting. And if people want to watch that, they can go to Europe.”
Governors also approved a change to the boarding penalty, which now includes “pushing” from behind if it’s deemed dangerous.
“We don’t necessarily think it needs to be a violent hit to cause a violent crash,” Shanahan said.
At the same time, players turning their backs at the last minute might not automatically get a boarding call.
“There are, believe it or not, players who will use this as a tactic,” Shanahan said. “If a player puts himself in a vulnerable position like that, the hit could be viewed differently.”