The NHL announced tonight that the league rule book will be one penalty heavier next season adding a major penalty for blindside hits to the head. Get your pens out to write this one into your copy of the league rules that I know you’ve got sitting on your desk. Wait, I’m the only one with that? Well, fine, but here it is anyhow.
Rule 48, “Illegal Check to the Head,” also empowers a referee, at his discretion, to assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the penalized player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.
There shouldn’t be a lot of argument about this from anyone but I’m sure the first instance this comes into play will come under intense, slow motion scrutiny by everyone on the Internet and otherwise. That said, having to add a rule like this is a bit crazy in the first place in that none of the other infractions in the book covered having a guy come out of nowhere and blasting another player in the head being a penalty. One fun side tweak to all this is what to do with guys who keep doing this repeatedly.
Any player who incurs a total of two game misconducts under this rule, in either the regular season or playoffs, will be suspended automatically for his team’s next game. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty, the automatic suspension will be increased by one game.
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline also can be applied.
With this kind of rider attached to the rule, I certainly hope the league won’t be wishy-washy about suspending guys when it’s called for in the rule book. The league’s rule about suspending that are called for an instigator penalty with less than five minutes to play has been rescinded more than it’s been punished. Doing the same in this case would be a tremendous mistake.
It’s rough that it took Marc Savard getting blown up by Matt Cooke this year to finally snap the league and players out of their haze and into doing something proactive about protecting one another, but at the same time, it’s great that at least something is being done and almost immediately as well.