The NHL is looking to establish a new rule against blind-side hits to the head as soon as possible, but any change for the rest of the regular season or playoffs would involve possible supplemental discipline but would not involve on-ice officials calling a minor or major penalty.
"A penalty call on the ice [based on any new rule] would be a difficult thing to consistently administer at this time," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, during an appearance on NHL Live! radio.
The alternative measure would be for any potential violation to be reviewed by Campbell and his Hockey Operations staff. Any questionable play would involve "a lateral, back pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted."
At last week's general managers meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., the GMs of all 30 NHL clubs unanimously approved this quoted language about "lateral, back pressure or blind-side hits." The second sentence of the GMs' proposed new rule language was "A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."
The League is proposing that the major and minor penalty calls portion of the rule be instituted for the 2010-2011 regular season, in part to help provide on-ice officials with the full adaptation period afforded by training camps and preseason games.
NHL executives were busy Wednesday finishing up a DVD package to be delivered to the 30 teams, plus the NHL Players’ Association and NHL on-ice officials. The DVD would illustrate what hits would and would not be reviewed under the proposed rule change--and, for next season, which ones would be subject to on-ice minor or major penalties.
"We would like to [establish the rule] as soon as possible," said Campbell. "But key people need to understand what we propose."
In an interview with Toronto radio station AM640 and host Darren Dreger, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged expediting the rule change was "very important for the game and it is very important we do it the right way with the game's shareholders."
The next official step in any rule change would be gaining approval of the NHL's competition committee. Campbell said players on the competition committee are being contacted through efforts of the Players' Association.
Daly said that what follows the competition committee step is approval by the League's Board of Governors. Daly explained the "added complication" that the Board of Governors vote needs to be unanimous because the rule is in season.
"We are working to see if the new rules can be implemented as quickly as possible, and perhaps as early as before the end of the season," Daly said Tuesday night. "We are proceeding on the basis (of) doing what is best for the game and the players on a responsible timetable within the parameters of our legal and contractual obligations."
Campbell said the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard, which resulted a possible season-ending concussion for the Boston star but no suspension for Cooke, represents one of several hits that have concerned Hockey Operations and the League's GMs. Its timing on the day before the recent GMs meeting was "reminded quite graphically" of the issue, he said, but that the conversation about blind-side hits to the heads has been ongoing for "last couple of years."