A New Year, A New Rule
BOCA RATON, FLA.--Don't worry hockey fans. Stand down, Mike Milbury.
The NHL isn't ready to take the hitting out of hockey. Anybody who thinks probably dreams every day about the wonderful possibilities of going back to the old no-helmet days, horsehair goalie pads and tube skates.
What the NHL's general managers will do on Wednesday, it appears, is propose a new rule that will limit the ability of players to strike opponents in the head with shoulder hits.
That's really all we're talking about.
Scott Stevens, were he still playing, would still be able to lay out Eric Lindros, were he still playing, in the same way he did back in 2000. Straight on, elbow down, shoulder to jaw.
There's no appetite out there to take that type of hit out of the NHL game.
But what NHL players won't be able to do any more without penalty and possible suspension is crack another player in the head with a shoulder pad from the side or the back.
Is that going to irretrievably alter the sport? No, of course not.
The guiding philosophy behind the new rule will be to protect "vulnerable" players, or players who simply cannot see a dangerous hit coming and can't protect themselves. It was drawn up by a group of eight GMs today and will be presented to the all 30 execs today for final approval.
"We've all got to look at the bigger picture," said Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, whose player, Matt Cooke, was the latest to deliver one of these controversial hits when he laid out Boston's Marc Savard on Sunday.
Savard may miss the rest of the season, according to Boston GM Peter Chiarelli. NHL vice-president Colin Campbell has not yet decided whether Cooke should face supplementary discipline.
The rule would be implemented for next season, but would have to be approved by the NHL competition committee - which includes five players - and the league's board of governors.