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GMs discuss protecting goalies, avoiding collisions

by Dan Rosen
TORONTO -- Goalie protection was not on the original agenda for Tuesday's meeting of the NHL general managers, but due to the controversial collision between the Sabres' Ryan Miller and the Bruins' Milan Lucic during Saturday night's game in Boston the NHL Hockey Operations Department brought it to the attention of the managers in the morning session.
The discussion that ensued reaffirmed for the GMs the position that goalies should never be considered fair game for contact no matter where they are on the ice, which is already spelled out in NHL rules covering charging (Rule 42) and interference on the goalkeeper (Rule 69). The GMs, however, want to emphasize the importance of both rules and make sure the League is being stringent in its enforcement.
They also talked about having further discussion on this highly sensitive topic in March at their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.


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"I'm not talking about plays around the crease, because there is going to be incidental contact," Penguins GM Ray Shero said. "But we're talking about a regular season game with the incident with Lucic and Ryan Miller. If you get into a playoff series and these guys are going to play pucks and you run them over and get a two-minute penalty, I think you're going to open up a set of pretty dangerous circumstances."
Lucic received a two-minute minor for charging when he and Miller collided in the left faceoff circle. Miller continued to play after the collision, but was removed after the second period. He is suffering from symptoms associated with whiplash and a concussion and has already missed one game.
Brendan Shanahan, the League's Senior Vice President for Player Safety and Hockey Operations, chose not to further discipline Lucic after conducting a disciplinary hearing with him Monday. Shanahan told that "the minor penalty called on the ice was the correct call. And while it's unfortunate that Miller was hurt, I saw nothing egregious about this hit that would elevate it to supplemental discipline."
Buffalo GM Darcy Regier suggested that a majority of the general managers have told him that Lucic should have been suspended.
"Well, based on our conversations in the room, I personally believe it would be," Regier said. "It is not just my feeling, it is the feelings of my counterparts."
Shero suggested that at the very least a major penalty could have been called on Lucic.
Rule 42.3 on charging allows for a major penalty to be called at the discretion of the official "based on the degree of violence of the check." There is a similar stipulation associated with Rule 69.2 on interference with a goalkeeper.
Shanahan confirmed to that he did have a discussion with the League's Director of Officiating, Terry Gregson. The conclusion was that a major penalty may have been an appropriate call in that case, but again it is up to the discretion of the on-ice officials.
"Certainly they (the goalies) are not fair game. Players have to understand that," Shanahan said. "The general managers expressed to me the importance of all the players on the ice, but also the extreme importance of the goaltender. So, I do think that is something as a message to the players around the League, if anybody does think it's a tactic and a tactic that is a smart gamble on their part, it won't be."
Nashville GM David Poile said that the managers might want to look at editing the rules to clarify contact against the goaltenders.
"Maybe we don't have the proper wording in the rules right now, but we can't change the rules today," Poile said. "We can only change the rules in March. I think maybe (this is) an area that we should look at, that I would like to look at in March."
The reason for the sensitivity to the goalies is pretty simple. The managers view them as being as important to a hockey team as football executives and coaches view quarterbacks.
Lose your No. 1, and your season could be in jeopardy of going down the drain.
"Goaltenders don't know how to take a hit or hit, that's not part of their game. They are there to stop the puck," Shero said. "They can go outside the crease to play the puck but they are not fair game. We have to make sure we continue to protect these guys. They are important pieces to the puzzle. If you lose a goaltender long term, it's really hard to recover from that."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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