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NHL opens its 95th season tomorrow night with spotlight on Winnipeg return, B's Cup defense

Rules revisions, rink modifications reflect League's focus on player safety

Wednesday, 10.05.2011 / 4:31 PM / 2011 NHL Face-Off

NHL.com

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NHL opens its 95th season tomorrow night with spotlight on Winnipeg return, B's Cup defense
NEW YORK/TORONTO - The first Stanley Cup banner raising in Boston in 39 years, the first National Hockey League regular-season game in Winnipeg in 15 years and the first NHL regular-season game ever played in Germany will be among the highlights when the NHL launches its 2011-12 season with a four-day celebration beginning Thursday night.

The 1,230-game, 185-day regular season gets off to a rousing start with a coast-to-coast North American triple-header that includes the Boston Bruins beginning their 2011 Stanley Cup championship defense against Philadelphia. The other games feature an "Original Six" showdown between Montreal and Toronto and a meeting between Pittsburgh and Vancouver.

The spotlight shifts across the Atlantic Ocean Friday and Saturday, when the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers play four games in three European capitals -- including the historic Sabres-Kings game Saturday in Berlin. The final team opener of the season will mark the return of the NHL to Winnipeg when the Jets host the Canadiens Sunday.

Amid the pageantry, the NHL's continued focus on player safety will be reflected by changes to the rules and the playing environment. Expansions and revisions have been made to the rules governing boarding and checks to the head, while the changes to the environment include the elimination of seamless glass and the introduction of curved glass at the ends of players' benches.

What follows is a synopsis of the major changes, highlights and important facts media and fans should know going into the 2011-12 NHL season:

IMPORTANT DATES

Season-Opening Night: Thursday, October 6 - Philadelphia @ Boston, Montreal @ Toronto, Pittsburgh @ Vancouver.
Hall of Fame Game: Boston @ Toronto, Saturday, Nov. 5.
2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic: NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers @ Citizens Bank Park, Monday, Jan. 2.
All-Star Break: Jan. 26-30 - 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend @ Ottawa.
Meeting of 2011 Stanley Cup Finalists: Vancouver @ Boston - Saturday, Jan. 7.
Meeting of the past two Stanley Cup champions: Boston @ Chicago - Saturday, Oct. 15.
Busiest Day: Saturday, April 7 - 15 games.
Regular Season Concludes: April 7, 2012.

NORTH AMERICAN HOME OPENERS

ANAHEIM - Fri., Oct. 14, San Jose.
BOSTON - Thu., Oct. 6, Philadelphia.
BUFFALO - Fri., Oct. 4, Carolina.
CALGARY - Sat., Oct. 8, Pittsburgh.
CAROLINA - Fri., Oct. 7, Tampa Bay.
CHICAGO - Sat., Oct. 8, Dallas.
COLORADO - Sat., Oct. 8, Detroit.
COLUMBUS - Fri., Oct. 7, Nashville.
DALLAS - Fri., Oct. 7, Chicago.
DETROIT - Fri., Oct. 7, Ottawa.
EDMONTON - Sun., Oct. 9, Pittsburgh.
FLORIDA - Sat., Oct. 15, Tampa Bay.
LOS ANGELES - Tue., Oct. 18, St. Louis.
MINNESOTA - Sat., Oct. 8, Columbus.
MONTREAL - Thu., Oct. 13, Calgary.
NASHVILLE - Thu., Oct. 13, Phoenix.
NEW JERSEY - Sat., Oct. 8, Philadelphia.
NY ISLANDERS - Sat., Oct. 8, Florida.
NY RANGERS - Thu., Oct. 27, Toronto.
OTTAWA - Tue., Oct. 11, Minnesota.
PHILADELPHIA - Wed., Oct. 12, Van.
PHOENIX - Sat., Oct. 15, Winnipeg.
PITTSBURGH - Tue., Oct. 11, Florida.
ST. LOUIS - Sat., Oct. 8, Nashville.
SAN JOSE - Sat., Oct. 8, Phoenix.
TAMPA BAY - Mon., Oct. 17, Florida.
TORONTO - Thu., Oct. 6, Montreal.
VANCOUVER - Thu., Oct. 6, Pittsburgh.
WASHINGTON - Sat., Oct. 8, Carolina.
WINNIPEG - Sun., Oct. 9, Montreal.

NEW COACHES

Dallas
- Glen Gulutzan
Florida - Kevin Dineen
Minnesota - Mike Yeo
New Jersey - Peter DeBoer
Ottawa - Paul MacLean
Winnipeg - Claude Noel

NEW CAPTAINS

NY Islanders
- Mark Streit
NY Rangers - Ryan Callahan
Philadelphia - Chris Pronger
St. Louis - David Backes

NEW GENERAL MANAGERS

Calgary
- Jay Feaster
Winnipeg - Kevin Cheveldayoff

2011 INDUCTION CLASSES

HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
Ed Belfour
Doug Gilmour
Mark Howe
Joe Nieuwendyk

U.S. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
Chris Chelios
Mike Emrick
Ed Snider
Gary Suter
Keith Tkachuk

LESTER PATRICK AWARD
Mark Johnson
Bob Pulford
Tony Rossi
Jeff Sauer

APPROACHING NHL MILESTONES

1,000 GAMES PLAYED
Joe Thornton (SJ) needs five
Hal Gill (Mtl) needs six
Dainus Zubrus (NJ) needs 17
Vaclav Prospal (CBJ) needs 22
Mike Knuble (Wsh) needs 32
Patrik Elias (NJ) needs 39
Olli Jokinen (Cgy) needs 40
Matt Cullen (Min) needs 42
Tomas Holmstrom (Det) needs 48
Derek Morris (Phx) needs 54
Chris Phillips (Ott) needs 55
Saku Koivu (Ana) needs 62
Steve Staios (NYI) needs 64
Vincent Lecavalier (TB) needs 66
Zdeno Chara (Bos) needs 72
Craig Rivet (CBJ) needs 77

1,000 GAMES COACHED
Barry Trotz (Nash) needs 16
Terry Murray (LA) needs 17

1,600 CAREER POINTS
Jaromir Jagr (646-953-1,599) needs one

500 CAREER GOALS
Jarome Iginla (Cgy) needs 16

PLAYERS IN NEW CITIES

Anaheim - D Mathieu Carle, C Andrew Cogliano, G Jeff Deslauriers, D Kurtis Foster.
Boston - D Joe Corvo.
Buffalo - D Christian Ehrhoff, RW Ales Kotalik, LW Ville Leino, D Robyn Regehr.
Calgary - D Scott Hannan, F Lee Stempniak.
Carolina - G Brian Boucher, D Tomas Kaberle, LW Alexei Ponikarovski, RW Anthony Stewart.
Chicago - LW Andrew Brunette, LW Dan Carcillo, G Ray Emery, D Sami Lepisto, D Steve Montador, D Sean O'Donnell, D Rostislav Olesz.
Colorado - G J.S. Giguere, C Chuck Kobasew, D Shane O'Brien, G Semyon Varlamov.
Columbus - C Jeff Carter, D Radek Martinek, C Vinny Prospal, D James Wisniewski.
Dallas - RW Radek Dvorak, RW Eric Godard, RW Michael Ryder, D Sheldon Souray.
Detroit - D Mike Commodore, G Ty Conklin, D Garnett Exelby, D Ian White.
Edmonton - D Cam Barker, C Eric Belanger, LW Ben Eager, LW Darcy Hordichuk, LW Ryan Smyth, D Andy Sutton.
Florida - LW Sean Bergenheim, RW Matt Bradley, D Brian Campbell, LW Tomas Fleischmann, D Ed Jovanovski, RW Tomas Kopecky, G Jose Theodore, RW Scottie Upshall, RW Kris Versteeg.
Los Angeles - LW Simon Gagne, C Mike Richards, LW Ethan Moreau.
Minnesota - LW Dany Heatley, D Mike Lundin, C Darrol Powe, RW Devin Setoguchi.
Montreal - G Peter Budaj, LW Erik Cole.
Nashville - RW Niclas Bergfors, D Brett Lebda, D Tyler Sloan, RW Zach Stortini.
New Jersey - RW Trent Hunter, W Cam Janssen, RW Petr Sykora.
NY Islanders - RW Jay Pandolfo, C Marty Reasoner, LW Brian Rolston.
NY Rangers - D Brandon Bell, D Tim Erixon, C Brad Richards, LW Mike Rupp.
Ottawa - G Alex Auld, LW Nikita Filatov, C Zenon Konopka, RW Mark Parrish.
Philadelphia - G Ilya Bryzgalov, D Andreas Lilja, RW Jaromir Jagr, C Brayden Schenn, RW Wayne Simmonds, C Max Talbot, RW Jakub Voracek.
Phoenix - C Boyd Gordon, C Daymond Langkow, G Curtis McIlhinney, C Patrick O'Sullivan, G Mike Smith, LW Raffi Torres.
Pittsburgh - C Steve Sullivan, D Boris Valabik, C Jason Williams.
San Jose - D Brent Burns, C Michal Handzus, RW Martin Havlat, D Jim Vandermeer, D Colin White, C Brad Winchester.
St. Louis - C Jason Arnott, RW Jonathan Cheechoo, G Brian Elliott, D Kent Huskins, RW Jamie Langenbrunner, C Scott Nichol.
Tampa Bay - G Mathieu Garon, D Bruno Gervais, D Matt Gilroy, C Ryan Shannon.
Toronto - C Tim Connolly, D Cody Franson, D Jon-Michael Liles, C Matthew Lombardi, C David Steckel.
Vancouver - RW Byron Bitz, C Marco Sturm.
Washington - RW Troy Brouwer, C Jeff Halpern, D Roman Hamrlik, G Tomas Vokoun, RW Joel Ward.
Winnipeg - C Andrew Gagnon, RW Eric Fehr, LW Tanner Glass, C Kyle Wellwood.

PLAYER SAFETY INITIATIVES

NEW DEPARTMENT OF PLAYER SAFETY
At the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the establishment of a new Department of Player Safety to be headed by Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan. It will monitor all NHL games from its video room in New York focusing solely upon player safety and specifically upon those incidents that might require supplemental discipline.

MISSION STATEMENT
"We are committed to making the game as safe as possible for our players while preserving the intensely competitive and passionate nature of hockey."

MANDATE
1. Work with GMs, the Competition Committee and the NHLPA to continue to look at rules that can better protect our players.
2. Focus on safety issues related to players' equipment and the playing environment.
3. Responsible for administering supplemental player discipline.

APPROACH
The Department of Player Safety will monitor all NHL games from its video room in New York focusing solely upon player safety and specifically upon those incidents that might require supplemental discipline. It will impose suspensions that will not only serve as an effective deterrent but, combined with improved communication and education, result in the desired effect of changing player behavior.

CURVED ACRYLIC SYSTEM
The new Curved Acrylic System is being installed in all 30 NHL rinks. The system uses a curved piece of acrylic in combination with movable posts to protect the player from blunt force trauma. The curved acrylic prevents the sudden stop of the player by deflecting him, and the movable posts help to absorb the energy from the hit.

The original concept was developed by Vancouver Canucks Sports & Entertainment in March 2011 and presented to the League. The design was evaluated, modified by the League's engineers and adopted by the League for installation in all 30 arenas for the 2011-12 regular season.

ACRYLIC SHIELDING IN ALL RINKS
For the 2011-12 season, the League has required that all seamless glass systems be converted to the more flexible acrylic systems. The weight of acrylic panels is less than half of the seamless panels.

CONCUSSION EVALUATION AND MANAGEMENT PROTOCOL
In January, 2010, the NHL became the first professional sports league to adopt a League-wide Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol. The Protocol has been revised several times since its adoption. In March, 2011, the NHL became the first pro sports league to adopt a mandatory protocol calling for removal of a player from a game for medical evaluation.

The current NHL Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol:

Pursuant to the League-wide Concussion Protocol, any player who displays one or more of the determined signs of concussion, or who reports one or more of the determined concussion symptoms (either on-ice or at any subsequent time), shall be removed as soon as possible from the playing environment by the Team Athletic Trainer. The player shall then be evaluated by the Team Athletic Trainer or the Team Physician in a distraction-free environment using a comprehensive standardized acute concussion assessment tool. The Team Physician shall make the determination whether the player is diagnosed with a concussion. If, after the evaluation noted above, the Team Physician determines that the player is not diagnosed with a concussion, the player may return to play. In rare circumstances, it may be appropriate for the Team Physician to return a player diagnosed with a concussion to play in the same game if he has complete recovery of symptoms and is judged by the Team Physician to have returned to his neuro-cognitive baseline.

REVISED PLAYING RULES

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."

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.


Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp