If any player, coach or general manager has a question about the direction of the NHL's new Department of Player Safety or how rule changes for the 2011-12 season will be implemented, they'll only need to refer back to the video they received from the NHL at the start of training camp.
NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan and NHLPA Special Advisor Mathieu Schneider took part in a video, shot and produced by the League, that details the rule changes governing head checking and boarding.
The 10-minute video, which was sent to all 30 clubs this past weekend, was created as a way to show concrete examples of what will and won't be tolerated under the guidelines of the revamped rules on head checking and boarding. In the video, Shanahan also details the mandate and approach for the NHL's new Department of Player Safety.
"We really feel going forward that communication and transparency will be very important," said Shanahan, whose department will be run out of the League's New York City headquarters. "I want to work with the Players' Association with that. We need to communicate to the players and continue to throughout the season."
What are the rule changes? There are two that are at the forefront of the agenda:
Rule 48 -- Illegal checks to the head
The NHL changed Rule 48 to render illegal all hits where the head is targeted in an intentional and/or reckless way and is the principal point of contact. A minor penalty will be assessed for infractions of this rule and the possibility of supplementary discipline exists.
The referee can use his judgment to determine if the player put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneous with being hit, as well as if the contact with the head on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable.
Rule 48 previously provided on-ice officials with the ability to call a major penalty for any targeted head hit from the lateral or blind side, but the re-written rule no longer includes the words lateral or blind side, and the major-penalty provision has been replaced by the minor-penalty provision.
In the Shanahan/Schneider video, four hits were shown as evidence of what won't be allowed under the new guidelines of Rule 48. In each hit, Shanahan and Schneider detailed how the head was targeted and the principal point of contact.
They also showed and analyzed four hits that are considered legal under Rule 48 and explained the reasons behind those, as well. They mostly were clean body checks in which the head was touched but not targeted or the principal point of contact.
"Now, the confusion some of the players have expressed in the past as to what direction they're approaching a player, what direction a player is facing, east, west, north, south, that has all been taken out," Shanahan said. "Anywhere on the ice, coming from any direction, you target the head and make it a principal point of contact, you'll be subject to a two-minute penalty. You'll also be -- as with all two-minute penalties or non-calls -- subject to supplementary discipline."
Rule 41 -- Boarding
The boarding rule was amended in several ways in order to put the focus on the violent -- and possibly dangerous -- contact with the boards rather than the actual point of contact.
This season, a boarding penalty will be assessed to a player who checks or pushes a defenseless player in a manner that causes the player to have a potentially violent and/or dangerous impact with the boards. The word "pushes" was added to the rule and "defenseless" replaced the word "vulnerable."
The onus now is going to be on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position. If he is, the player applying the hit must avoid or, at the very least, minimize the contact.
However, as is the case with Rule 48, the referee will be able to use his judgment to determine if the player getting hit put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneous with being hit, or if the check was unavoidable and contact was at the very least minimized.
In the video, Shanahan and Schneider showed and analyzed three plays that will be called as boarding under the new guidelines of Rule 41. They also went through three clips of plays that would not be considered boarding because the player delivering the hit minimized his contact after committing to the check or the players being hit put themselves in vulnerable positions immediately prior to or simultaneous with the hit.
"What we did is we took the onus off the violence of the hit itself and added the word 'push' in there," Shanahan said. "It really has more to do with the violence in the collision with the boards. We don't necessarily think it has to be a violent hit to cause a violent crash, so we broadened the rule by putting in the word 'push.'"
For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.
— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday