The NHL's Board of Governors had a busy day Monday, approving the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg and changing the wording for rules concerning boarding and, most interestingly, illegal hits to the head.
Rule 48 was put into place to stop blind-side or lateral hits to the head. In the new version, those terms have been replaced with wording meant to stop hits in which the head is targeted and and is the "principle point of contact." The words lateral and blind-side have been deleted.
Here is the official announcement from the league:
The National Hockey League's Board of Governors (Monday) approved changes to the wording of two rules – Rule 41, Boarding, and Rule 48, Illegal Check To The Head. The changes were approved by the League's 30 Club General Managers and were approved by the Competition Committee before being forwarded to the Board for ratification.
A boarding penalty will be assessed for a hit on a defenseless player that causes the victim to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The new wording requires the player delivering the check to avoid or minimize contact if his opponent is defenseless. It also allows the referee discretion to determine whether the recipient of the contact placed himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the collision and whether the check was unavoidable.
A penalty for an illegal check to the head will be assessed for a hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact. The qualifying terms "lateral or blind side" for such hits have been deleted.
New Wording of Rule 41 – Boarding
41.1 Boarding - A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.
There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the referees when applying this rule.
Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious "icing" or "off-side" play which results in that player hitting or impacting the boards is "boarding" and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as "charging."
New Wording of Rule 48 - Illegal Check to the Head
48.1 Illegal Check To The Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was unavoidable, can be considered.
48.2 Minor Penalty – For violation of this rule, a minor penalty shall be assessed.
48.3 Major Penalty – There is no provision for a major penalty for this rule.
48.4 Game Misconduct – There is no provision for a game misconduct for this rule.
48.5 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.