The NHL Board of Governors voted on three important changes today. One involved officially approving the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise to Winnipeg. The two other major decisions revolved around changing the wording of rules in the hopes of giving referees and league disciplinarians (such as Brendan Shanahan) a better chance of policing questionable hits.
The BOG approved wording changes for Rule 41 (boarding) and Rule 48 (illegal hits to the head).
Before we provide you with the full rules, here is a basic summary of how each rule has been altered.
Rule 41 has been changed so that it penalizes players who fail to avoid or minimize contact with a defenseless opponent along the boards. NHL.com points out that it also gives referees some discretion to determine if the victim of a hit put himself into a vulnerable position just moments before the hit happened, making the conclusion unavoidable.
Rule 48 received essential deletions: a hit will be illegal if the head is the “principal point of contact” with the “blindside or lateral hit” phrases taken out of the description. This change will be welcomed by many who thought that the “blindside or lateral hit” language allowed disciplinarians too much leeway to let offending parties off without a penalty. Most of the gray area has been removed.
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.