Leafs okay with new rule

Leafs forward John Mitchell is happy to see the NHL crack down on headshots. (QMI Agency/Darren...

Leafs forward John Mitchell is happy to see the NHL crack down on headshots. (QMI Agency/Darren Brown)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:45 PM ET

ATLANTA -- Let the discipline begin.

Now that the NHLPA's executive committee has provided its blessing, the NHL's new rule banning blindside headshots will be implemented for the remainder of the season beginning with the 11 games going on around the league Thursday night.

To a man, every player polled in the Maple Leafs dressing room after the morning skate here in Atlanta Thursday was solidly in favour of the swift action.

At the same time, there was some concern among the Leafs that, given the new regulation, players might start flopping around in order to draw penalties a la European soccer.

“I assumed it would happen,” forward John Mitchell said of the NHLPA's endorsement to fast-track the rules. “It would have been stupid to say no.

“I just hope players don’t start embellishing, going down like they’ve been hit in the head when, in actuality, they’ve been hit in the shoulder.”

Mitchell had his marbles scrambled earlier this month by a hit from the Ottawa Senators’ Chris Neil, a blow that was deemed to be clean by the officials working the game.

For Wayne Primeau, whose brother Keith was knocked out of the NHL after suffering a series of concussions, this rule has been long overdue.

“I think so,” Primeau said. “Look at some of those recent hits. After a guy has passed the puck, you could pretty much go 'One Mississippi, two Mississippi' before he gets hit. That can't be allowed.”

From here on in it won't be.

According to the NHL, the new rule will prohibit “a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.”

Under the new rule, the NHL Hockey Operations Department is empowered to review any such hit for the purpose of Supplementary Discipline.

“We believe this is the right thing to do for the game and for the safety of our players,” commissioner Gary Bettman said after receiving unanimous approval from the Board of Governors as well as the endorsement of the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee and the NHLPA Executive Board. “The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game.”

Matt Cooke’s blindside hit on the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard earlier this month certainly sped up the process of implementing the rule. Savard continues to suffer concussion-like symptoms and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.


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