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NHL board of governors approve rule on shoulder hits to the head

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - NHL referees will be able to call a penalty for shoulder hits to the head next season after the league's board of governors approved a rule proposal from the competition committee on Thursday.

The new penalty will be a major and game misconduct with the possibility for supplemental discipline.

It's an issue the general managers have grappled with for well over a year.

"I'm happy about the rule and I'm glad we took the time to try to get it as right as we can," said Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. "Now that we've put it in there we can watch it. If there's things we can do to make it better then I'm sure we'll do that.

"But this is a good step."

Head hits received a lot of attention this season after a couple high-profile incidents.

Philadelphia's Mike Richards landed a blindside hit on Florida's David Booth in October, keeping Booth out for 45 games with a concussion.

Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke then levelled Boston's Marc Savard in March, sidelining the Bruins' star playmaker for the final 18 regular-season games and their first-round playoff series because of a concussion.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the only change to the rule originally proposed by the league's general managers and then approved by the competition committee was the removal of the phrase "back-pressure," which players felt was too vague.

The rule now prohibits "lateral or blindside hits to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact."

—With files from the Associated Press

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