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GMs believe new rule will make a difference

by Mike G. Morreale
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The consensus among most general managers was that the hit on Florida's David Booth by Philadelphia's Mike Richards earlier this season was the type of collision that needed proper attention.

And that's precisely what happened during the three-day GM meetings here at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

The GMs on Wednesday unanimously passed a rule proposal that would penalize blind-side hits to the head.

Two general managers obviously interested in the terminology of the new rule are Boston's Peter Chiarelli and Florida's Randy Sexton. Both GMs watched their players suffer concussions on somewhat similar plays. Booth missed three months after the hit by Richards, while Savard is out indefinitely after being hit in the head by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on Sunday. Neither offending player was suspended.

When asked how the new rule would be enforced by the officials on the ice if approved by the Competition Committee and NHL Board of Governors, Chiarelli wasn't exactly sure at this stage.

"I'm a little emotional because our player got hurt and this is just the thing we are talking about," Chiarelli said. "As far as calling it on the ice, it's tough. You don't have time to figure out how serious it is. That is one of the things we have to figure out.

"The committee and group of GMs put a lot of time and effort into it. We've always believed that we need to do what was right and I'm very comfortable with the recommendation going forward -- it's the right thing to do." -- Florida Panthers GM Randy Sexton

"You just see how fast the game is now and there is no obstruction. This is what happens. I think we have had a long-standing culture about the game and it has shifted as the game has shifted. It hasn't been a quick change, it's been subtle. But, as we see less obstruction, we see more of these hits."

Sexton said he's satisfied with the proposal, which will ban the "lateral, back pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or is the principal point of contact."

"I think it's a terrific decision," Sexton told "The committee and group of GMs put a lot of time and effort into it. We've always believed that we need to do what was right and I'm very comfortable with the recommendation going forward -- it's the right thing to do."

Does he believe the new rule would have changed the outcome of Richards' hit on Booth?

"I'd prefer to look forward than backward, quite frankly," he said. "I think that the Booth hit was an unfortunate type of hit within the rules, as they were defined at that point in time. It resulted in no suspension and I think it's fair to say that, as a group, that was the type of hit we needed to get out of our game."

While the new ruling likely would have brought further discipline on Richards -- he received a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct -- New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said the rule would have had no impact on the career of one of the hardest hitters ever to play the game, Hall of Fame defenseman and former Devils captain Scott Stevens.

"Scott Stevens hit north-south," Lamoriello said. "Scott Stevens hit when a player had his head down but in control of the puck. In fact, those were some of the questions that came up -- when there was under a second or half-second when the puck was released. That's when Scott hit a player. So the Scott Stevens hitting will not be out of the game -- his was up-front hitting. What we're talking about is the blind side, when a player is not responsible or could not be responsible for seeing that (opposing) player."

Sexton is looking forward to seeing the rule implemented and, hopefully, put an end to players being taken off the ice on a stretcher.

"As the game has evolved, we've focused on what needs to be done," Sexton said. "We've taken action (Wednesday) to make sure we get those hits out of the game and we have to look forward -- it's the right thing to do."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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