No one knows when the NHL will put its new headshot rule into effect, but it can’t come soon enough for some Maple Leafs.
“You have to have a starting point,” defenceman Francois Beauchemin urged Wednesday after practice. “Bring that rule in and we’ll see what happens. You can always adjust after that.”
The league is working on the language of the legislation and compiling a do’s-and-don’ts video, but fast tracking it is easier said than done. Changing the rulebook for high-speed contact more than 1,000 games into the season is a lot harder than ruling that Sean Avery can’t jump around in the lip of the crease to distract goalies. And a point has been made that a playoff spot could ride on a player that is suspended after the rule change is invoked where the same play was not illegal a few days before.
The league is hoping to have something concrete for the start of playoffs in three weeks.
“I’d hate to give you a timeline and be out — but I can only say as soon as possible,” league Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell told the NHL Network.
Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson, a former player, urged his team to either speak up on the matter or express their concern through NHLPA channels.
“At the end of the day, players have to be more vocal,” Wilson said. “They seem to be still hesistant to call a guy out on another team if they think that he’s dirty or to actually say they don’t want headshots. But if you get them in a room, off the record, most don’t like some of the things they’re seeing.”
Forward John Mitchell says it shouldn’t be too hard for his peers to change their ways at this stage of the season, especially with their own safety at stake.
“We’re all men here, we can understand a rule, mid-season or whatever,” Mitchell said. “You want to hit the body as much as you can. It’s body checking, not head checking. That (rule) will hopefully tone it down a bit. In light of all the things that have been happening, whether it’s in the NHL or junior, there have been a lot of head shots.”
“It’s pretty easy,” Beauchemin said. “You see a guy’s number in the back, don’t hit him. Guys have to realize the game is so much faster with no more hold-ups in the neutral zone and the goalies being unable to handle the puck. You look at the number of injured guys and I’m sure there’s more defencemen than forwards because we have to go back and get the puck.”
Beauchemin was at a loss to say why so many head shots have occured, particularly in the past few weeks. It was suggested the intensity of playoff races has ramped up reckless behaviour
“Maybe that’s a reason, maybe it’s guys borderline of being in and out of the lineup, trying to impress people and do a lot. Unfortunately, bad things happen when you do that.”