NEW YORK — The league rule on hits to the head has been broadened in an effort to reduce the number of concussions and other serious injuries.
The Board of Governors voted Tuesday to change a rule that had made only "lateral" and "blindside" head hits illegal and worth a five-minute major penalty. Now a hit made anywhere on the ice in which the head is targeted and is the principal point of contact gets the offending player a two-minute minor. The terms "lateral" and "blindside" have been deleted.
A penalized player also will be subject to league discipline.
The new rule is effective immediately.
"Now the confusion some of the players have expressed in the past as to what direction they're approaching a player, what direction a player is facing, east, west, north, south, that has all been taken out," Brendan Shanahan, the former player who is the league's new discipline czar, told NHL.com.
The rewritten rule is a byproduct of work done by a committee of Shana- han, league hockey operations manager Rob Blake, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk — all former players — that commissioner Gary Bettman put together in March to examine ways to make the game safer.
The Board of Governors also approved changes to the boarding rule. A penalty will now be given to a player who hits a defenseless player and causes him to hit the boards violently or dangerously. The penalty assessed is at the discretion of the referee, to be based on the impact with the boards.
But the rule also gives the referee discretion to determine whether the player who is hit placed himself in a vulnerable position and whether the check was unavoidable.
Winnipeg move approved: The Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale and relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg, clearing the final big hurdle in the process.
Jagr watch: The agent for former scoring champion and league MVP Jaromir Jagr said he is talking with the Red Wings, Penguins and a team he wouldn't identify about Jagr returning to the NHL. Petr Svoboda said Jagr wants a one-year deal and something should be set in the next week or so. The Wings have said they are interested. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said the team hadn't talk to Svoboda but he was intrigued by the possibility of adding Jagr, 39, who hasn't played in the NHL since 2008 with the Rangers. Jagr has played in Russia's KHL since. He won Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and '92 and also played for the Capitals.