NHL GM’s suggest dropping “blindside” from description of Rule 48 for head shots


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.

NHL hands Daniel Paille a four-game suspension for blindside hit on Ray Sawada

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The league decided to hand Boston Bruins forward Daniel Paille a four-game suspension for his blindside hit on Dallas Stars winger Ray Sawada. The NHL argues that Paille violated Rule 48, making it the fourth suspension based on players breaking the new rule on head shots from the blindside.

Missing four games without pay will cost Paille $23,118.28 in salary, according to the league.

Former PHT editor Brandon Worley called it one of the “worst hits” of the 2010-11 season. It’s hard to argue that the check was one of the uglier moments in recent weeks, whether Sawada ends up missing any time or not. (For more discussion regarding the hit, click here.)

It’s good that the NHL is cracking down on these hits, but it doesn’t really seem to cut down on dangerous checks like these. Perhaps the league simply needs to make punishments far more harsh? A four-game suspension is regrettable, but maybe the only way to get through to some players is to bump it closer to 10 games.

The bottom line is that something needs to be done about these hits. Check out video footage of the hit below.

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Thursday night’s controversial hit: Bruin Daniel Paille could face suspension for hit on Star Ray Sawada

For two teams who rarely see each other considering the fact that they play in other conferences, there certainly was a lot of anger on display between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars on Thursday night. After all, the two teams engaged in a dizzying three fights in the game’s first four seconds.

The probability of bad blood boiling during their next game is pretty high too, as the two teams will have another violent moment to focus on. Bruins forward Daniel Paille nailed Stars right wing Ray Sawada with a blindside check that former PHT editor Brandon Worley called “one of the worst hits” of the 2010-11 season.

(Click that link for video of the hit. We will try to pass along one of our own as soon as possible.)

Team-related bloggers often disagree about controversial hits like these, but SBN’s Boston Bruins blog Stanley Cup of Chowder also labeled it a blindside hit and wonders if a suspension is coming for Paille. The blog also notes that Paille’s match penalty was downgraded to a game misconduct after the game, something that might factor slightly into whether or not the league will take action for the stomach-turning blow.

Considering the trouble Marc Savard is facing thanks in large part to Matt Cooke’s blindside hit from last season, the Bruins are one of the last teams who should complain if some serious discipline comes from this situation. To their credit, the Bruins expressed regret about it, admitting it was a bad hit.

“I mean, it’s a bad hit, right?” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. “That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. You can’t be a hypocrite and complain about it when it happens to you and say it’s fine when your teammate does it. It is a head that they’re trying to get rid of.

“You hear it from every player after they do it, they feel bad,” Ference added. “I just talked to Danny and he feels bad. It’s tough. That backchecking forward, to make those kinds of hits now, it’s so hard to do it in a clean fashion with the new rules. It is what it is. He hurt the guy and I’m sure he’ll have a little conversation [with the league].”

Sawada came down the middle of the Bruins zone and was leaning slightly forward trying to maintain control of the puck when Paille came from his right and delivered a lateral hit with the shoulder. Sawada went down hurt and did not return to the game.

It’s not known at this time if Sawada will miss any time from the hit. It’s sad that it’s a bright side when a player doesn’t need stretcher, but it appeared that he was at least able to skate off the ice after the collision.

We hate to fuel conspiracy theories here, but one wonders if the Bruins’ status as an “Original Six” franchise along with the built-in doubts that come from Colin Campbell’s son playing for the B’s will factor into the suspension (or the outrage that would come from Stars fans if nothing is done).

Either way, we’ll keep you updated in regard to the latest controversial hit in a disturbing series of dirty checks.

Poll: Does Mike Brown deserve a suspension for his blindside hit on Ed Jovanovski?

It seems like with every passing evening, there’s at least one hit that crosses a line with at least one NHL team. Sometimes those checks (or sucker punches) are egregious enough that the debate revolves around the severity of the penalty while other times it becomes a matter of rulebook semantics.

But if there’s one thing about Thursday’s questionable check du jour that makes it different from just about all the others, it’s that the opposing coach (kind of) thought it was a good thing. Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said that the team was “sleepwalking” through last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs until Mike Brown’s blindside hit on defenseman Ed Jovanovski “revved them up.”

Jovanovski was reaching to play a puck when Brown clipped him on the chin with his shoulder, clearly making contact with the player’s head. (View video of the hit here.)

The hit changed the tone of the game between two teams who rarely meet each other. Dave Vest reports that the Coyotes said Jovanovski is day-to-day with a “lower body injury” (something Vest notes as … peculiar considering the local of the hit). The team will re-evaluate him today.

Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy notes that the NHL only decided to fine Nick Foligno $2,500 for a similar hit on Patrick Dwyer in October, so it’s far from an open-and-shut case. Not that, you know, any fine or suspension situation ever really is thanks to the Wheel of Justice.

Ultimately, it’s the league’s call, but what do you think? Should Brown face a suspension, just a fine or no discipline at all? Vote in the poll below to share your opinion.