Three bruising members of the Maple Leafs have thrown their weight behind the NHL’s take on headshots.
The NHL’s general managers, after three days of meetings in Florida, have tabled a rule change that would address headshots, a problem that was underscored when Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins devastated the Boston Bruins’ Marc Savard with a blindside hit on Sunday.
Cooke, who will not be suspended for his hit, left the talented Bruins forward with a concussion.
The GMs put forth the language that “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 a major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline.”
The recommendation will be forwarded to the NHL and NHL Players’ Association competition committee and then to the NHL’s board of governors for final approval before it is passed.
It would be implemented for next season.
Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf, one of the more effective open-ice hitters in the game, is all for the proposed rule, as are a couple of other Toronto defencemen, Garnet Exelby and Luke Schenn.
“It’s definitely something that had to be addressed, guys that are in vulnerable positions,” Phaneuf said. “Those hits to the head, there is on place for them in the game. All that comes of it is that guys get hurt, and there had to be something done about it.”
Phaneuf said the proposed rule won’t dictate the way he plays.
“If there is a hit in the open ice, you are allowed to do it,” Phaneuf said. “It’s a fast game. Things happen quickly. Contact is a great part of the game we play and I don’t think it will have any bearing on that.”
All that might concern Exelby is a possible grey area, and the time it could take for players to understand what is legal what is not.
“It’s a start,” Exelby said. “We’ll see how it works and the implementation of it. I just hope it is a clear line. As long as those hits to the body are still fine and there is no intermingling of the two, I am okay with the head rule, definitely.”
Said Schenn: “There have been too many head shots, and if the rule is in stone, that’s good.”