NHL to Crack Down on Head Shots
BOCA RATON, Fla.—It won't happen until next season, which is too bad.
The new rule on head shots approved today by the NHL's general managers won't kick in until the 2010-11 season, which means there could be another incident like Sunday's Matt Cooke-Marc Savard ugliness during this regular season or the playoffs with the league helpless to do much about it.
"It's impossible to say to the referees, this is a call you now have to make tonight," said NHL vice-president Colin Campbell today.
First, the players and referees have to be educated and trained on the new head shot rule. The the rule must also be approved by the NHL's competition committee and the board of governors, both of which will happen in June.
That said, if there's an incident tonight or next week that mirrors the Mike Richards hit on David Booth last fall, the hit that finally changed the thinking of most GMs, there's going to be an outcry.
"People are going to be asking why didn't we do anything," agreed Leafs GM Brian Burke.
As reported in The Star today, the new rule will have three components:
- a hit primarily to the head from the side or the back will be illegal. One from the front which sees the shoulder contact the head is still okay.
- a minor or major penalty will be assessed. It's also possible a game misconduct could be tacked on.
- serious offences will likely include supplementary discipline, with an emphasis on repeat offenders.
"We're taking what is now a completely legal hit in our rulebook and saying that in the future its illegal if it is to the head," said Campbell.
The vote by the GMs was unanimous. Campbell, meanwhile, said he still hasn't decided whether to take action on the Cooke incident. Speculation is that there will be a hearing and Cooke — already suspended twice previously this season — will be reprimanded, but there will be no suspension
The league also approved a measure to fund the implementation of the four-man officiating system in the American Hockey League next season. The NHL will provide about $600,000 to the AHL, which will use the four-man system in about 40 per cent of the regular season next year and the playoffs.