The NHL’s GM’s met in Boston today to discuss the state of the league and the one subject that came up big once again was shots to the head. After all with what happened to Nathan Horton and his severe concussion suffered in Game 3 that took place here in Boston, it was necessary for something to be discussed.
Coming into focus was Rule 48 that was added by the NHL before this season meant to punish any player who targeted the head of an unsuspecting opponent with a blindside shot to the head. Today, a panel made up of Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, and NHL executive office members Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake proposed removing “blindside” from the description of Rule 48.
The motivation behind that is to better protect all players and get rid of a loophole that somewhat existed with the rule as it was written. After all, if a player suffered a head shot that wasn’t a blindside blow it’s possible it could’ve been worked around that it didn’t fall under Rule 48.
For instance, the hit Horton took from Aaron Rome in Game 3 wasn’t considered for Rule 48 at all by NHL VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy and was judged simply as an interference penalty. You could argue that his handing down of a four game suspension to Rome for his hit was effectively the start of that line of thinking. Trying to make this rule as clear as possible in a situation where sometimes the causes and results can be blurred out by circumstances helps out in the long run to help protect the players.
There are steps before this can be approved, however. The NHL competition committee will meet on Monday to discuss the matter and then it’ll be up to the Board of Governors to approve the alteration when they meet on June 21. Don’t expect there to be too much debate amongst everyone over this issue as the NHL has taken enough heat for resisting change for as long as they have on these matters. After all, NCAA hockey and some junior hockey leagues have rules in place that outlaw shots to the head at all. Having the premiere professional league in the world be resistant to change there doesn’t look good to many fans. The fact that this subtle change to Rule 48 still doesn’t totally ban shots to the head may still irk some fans.
These changes are happening slowly over time, but we can be thankful that they’re happening at all and moving forward to protect the players on the ice. It should come as no surprise that those that are helping push these things forward are players-turned-executives who want to see current players staying in the game longer and avoiding potentially career-ending or life-debilitating injuries. Now if they could do something about making the players have a better sense of respect for one another we’d be really getting somewhere.