BOCA RATON — In a move that signals a shift in the culture of North American pro hockey, general managers Wednesday unanimously recommended a rule that would penalize blind-side checks to the head.
The 30 GMs ended three days of meetings agreeing to ban "a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and-or the principal point of contact." A penalty would be assessed on such a hit, and further discipline would be possible.
The change must be approved by the joint player-management competition committee and the Board of Governors. It would go into effect next season.
Traditionally in North America, a player knocked woozy by a blind-side hit is blamed for "admiring his pass" or "not having his head on a swivel," meant to convey that a player must always be on the lookout for a check. "(This) is a huge statement in the game," league chief disciplinarian Colin Campbell said. "We're shifting some of the responsibility from the player getting hit to the player delivering the hit."
Blind-side shoulder checks to the head are currently legal but have caused several concussions this season. Discussions this week largely stemmed from a hit to Panthers wing David Booth by Flyers captain Mike Richards on Oct. 24. Booth was taken off on a stretcher. He missed 45 days because of a concussion. He is playing again.
The issued was magnified by a hit Penguins wing Matt Cooke made on Bruins center Marc Savard on Sunday. Savard also was taken off on a stretcher. He has a concussion and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Because the hits were legal, neither Richards nor Cooke was penalized or suspended. (The league announced its Cooke decision Wednesday.)
Among the rule-change supporters is Lightning wing Marty St. Louis: "There's no room for (head shots) in our game, especially with the speed of the game and the amount of head injuries we've had this year alone."
But Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, a five-time All-Star and former MVP, said he's not necessarily in favor of one: "So, you're going to let up when a guy has his head down, so then he beats you to the net and scores a goal in a big playoff game or a crucial game towards the tail end of the regular season? Then you're getting critiqued by the media and the fans: Why didn't you hit him?"
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet is torn. He understands Pronger's point but said if all head shots were illegal, "players would adjust to it."
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.
First Period—1, Chicago, Sharp 20 (Burish, Kane), 2:34. Penalties—Clune, LA, major (fighting), 2:54; Burish, Chi, major (fighting), 2:54; Simmonds, LA (slashing), 10:05; O'Donnell, LA (cross-checking), 10:24; Sopel, Chi (holding), 19:40.
Second Period—2, L.A., Brown 16 (O'Donnell, Kopitar), 4:58. 3, L.A., Kopitar 31 (Doughty, Stoll), 6:50 (pp). 4, Chicago, Versteeg 15 (Ladd, Madden), 8:25. Penalties—L.A. bench, served by Simmonds (too many men), 2:12; Toews, Chi (goaltender interference), 5:49.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Brown, LA, major (fighting), 17:23; Brouwer, Chi, major (fighting), 17:23; Simmonds, LA (holding), 18:37. Overtime—5, Chicago, Sharp 21 (Bolland), 2:08. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—L.A. 6-14-10-0—30. Chicago 13-16-11-3—43. Power-play opportunities—L.A. 1 of 2; Chicago 0 of 4. Goalies—L.A., Quick 37-19-4 (43 shots-40 saves). Chicago, Niemi 18-5-1 (30-28).
First Period—1, N.J., Niedermayer 8 (Rolston, Mottau), 4:16. 2, NYR, Prospal 15 (Gaborik, Jokinen), 5:13. 3, N.J., Salvador 4 (Greene, Langenbrunner), 18:17. Penalties—Zubrus, NJ (roughing), 7:47; Shelley, NYR, major (fighting), 18:21; Letourneau-Leblond, NJ, major (fighting), 18:21.
Second Period—4, NYR, Christensen 6 (Dubinsky, Girardi), 5:01. 5, N.J., Parise 31 (Zubrus, Zajac), 8:38 (pp). 6, NYR, Prust 2 (Shelley), 9:15. 7, N.J., Langenbrunner 16 (Mottau, Greene), 13:06. 8, N.J., Rolston 18 (Niedermayer, Clarkson), 15:19. Penalties—Parise, NJ (interference), 5:54; Redden, NYR (hooking), 8:23; Zajac, NJ (tripping), 19:53.
Third Period—9, N.J., Zajac 21 (Zubrus, Parise), 16:21. Penalties—Shelley, NYR (interference), 2:53; Shelley, NYR, misconduct, 17:13. Shots on Goal—NYR 6-7-6—19. N.J. 8-13-6—27. Power-play opportunities—NYR 0 of 3; N.J. 1 of 2. Goalies—NYR, Lundqvist 26-23-8 (17 shots-12 saves), Auld (15:19 second, 10-9). N.J., Brodeur 36-22-3 (19-16).
First Period—1, Buff., Myers 9 (Hecht, Roy), :55. 2, Dallas, Petersen 8 (Daley, Benn), 2:59. 3, Buff., Mancari 1 (Rivet, Torres), 7:49. 4, Dallas, Ott 12 (Richards, Eriksson), 12:28. 5, Dallas, Benn 16 (Skrastins, Modano), 17:56. 6, Buff., Pominville 17 (Myers, Connolly), 19:03. Penalties—Modano, Dal (slashing), 5:45; Myers, Buf (interference), 9:49; Robidas, Dal (interference), 15:30.
Second Period—7, Buff., Vanek 20 (Mancari, Myers), 10:05. Penalties—Ott, Dal, major (fighting), 6:52; Kaleta, Buf, major (fighting), 6:52; Tallinder, Buf (tripping), 19:00. Third Period—8, Buff., Roy 18 (Myers, Tallinder), 19:42 (en). Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Dallas 9-5-6—20. Buff. 16-15-12—43. Power-play opportunities—Dallas 0 of 2; Buff. 0 of 2. Goalies—Dallas, Turco 20-18-9 (42 shots-38 saves). Buff., Miller 33-15-7 (20-17).
First Period—1, Wash., Semin 31 (Morrison, Carlson), 2:24. 2, Wash., Green 16 (Backstrom, Ovechkin), 17:59 (pp). 3, Car., Dwyer 6 (Kostopoulos, Harrison), 18:17. Penalties—Fleischmann, Was (tripping), 5:57; Steckel, Was (holding), 8:59; Samsonov, Car (hooking), 10:25; Picard, Car (hooking), 17:04.
Second Period—4, Car., Ruutu 14 (LaRose), 8:43. 5, Wash., Green 17 (Ovechkin, Laich), 11:02 (pp). 6, Car., Jokinen 27 (Ruutu, Pitkanen), 15:03 (pp). Penalties—Carson, Car (holding), :48; Picard, Car (tripping), 9:41; Walker, Was (clipping), 14:01; Corvo, Was (interference), 19:16. Third Period—None. Penalties—Semin, Was (slashing), 3:17. Overtime—7, Wash., Fleischmann 19 (Belanger), 3:20. Penalties—None. Missed Penalty Shot—Sutter, Car, 17:41 first. Shots on Goal—Car. 11-8-10-2—31. Wash. 12-10-13-4—39. Power-play opportunities—Car. 1 of 5; Wash. 2 of 4. Goalies—Car., Legace 9-5-3 (39 shots-35 saves). Wash., Theodore 23-7-6 (31-28).