PHILADELPHIA – The blindside hit to the head will carry severe penalties next season if the NHL’s general managers have their way.
The league’s 30 general managers are recommending a rule that would see players receive a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct, with possible supplemental discipline, for lateral or blindside hits to the head with the shoulder.
“I think we’re on our way,” said Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini. “By the time we start the season, we’ll have something in place that’s clear and players will know whether it’s legal or not.”
The GMs say they will make that recommendation to the competition committee. Then the new rule would need final approval from the NHL’s board of governors.
The target is players cruising in from behind or from the side and blindsiding unsuspecting victims. Such plays have led to serious injuries, most recently, a shot by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke that injured Boston’s Marc Savard.
Nearly any shoulder hit not from behind is currently considered legal.
Under the general managers’ plan, players could also face supplemental discipline if the hit is deemed serious enough, even if no penalty is called on the ice.
“We decided there should be a five-minute penalty if the referee is sure on the ice this is exactly what we don’t want,” said NHL vice-president and disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
He said the penalty should be called, or discipline meted out, even if the victim gets up right away and continues to play.
Campbell warned that there will almost certainly be players who fake headshots to try to draw major penalties against opponents.
“You’re going to get embellishment—the head snaps back,” he said. “That’s the competitive aspect of hockey.
“That’s one of the things we’ll have the deal with.”
The 10-man competition committee is comprised of five players, four general managers and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider.
Head shots have become a controversial issue in the NHL after several ugly hits made headlines this season.
The general managers made the decision at a meeting ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in Philadelphia.
Tambellini will join the Oilers’ scouting staff Thursday to begin the process of deciding who to take with the first overall draft pick this month in Los Angeles.
Edmonton will be choosing between the two top-rated prospects—centre Tyler Seguin and winger Taylor Hall.
“They’ve studied for the test and now it’s time to do the test and articulate yea or nay,” he said. “It’ll be a great meeting.”
“We probably won’t make a decision until the 25th (draft day), so no one will have to hold such a big secret, but I will know individually where people stand.”
Dale Tallon, the long-time GM of the Chicago Blackhawks who was replaced in mid-season by Stan Bowman, has no ill-feeling for his former club, especially now that they are in the Stanley Cup final.
“I’m excited for them,” said Tallon, recently hired as GM by the Florida Panthers. “I’m really proud of them.
“I wish them all the best and hope they go all the way. They’ve done a tremendous job of building this team. I got my job in Florida because of it. Now I’ll try to duplicate that feat in Florida. I had 33 wonderful years with that organization and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them.”
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke had no news on whether defenceman Tomas Kaberle will be traded, but he said there has been “significant interest.”
“We’ll see where it goes,” he said. “We haven’t decided to move him.
“It’s not a case of taking the best offer we can get. We have a quality player who is a good guy at a good wage. It’s got to be something we feel improves our hockey club. Until it happens, Tomas stays, but the interest is already significant, so we’ll see. My job is to listen.”
It was a first meeting for former Detroit star Steve Yzerman, who was recently named GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.