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Head hits a prominent topic at GM meeting

by Dan Rosen
TORONTO -- The effects the new head hits rule is having on the NHL game will be one of the main points of discussion when the League's 30 general managers convene here Tuesday for their annual meeting.

Video examples will be shown of how the new rule governing hits involving the head as the principal area of contact is being implemented. Plus, there will be discussion on the effects the rule is having on player behavior.

Hits to the head -- as well as concussions -- have become a hot-button issue not only in the NHL, but across all sports.

The NHL has long been ahead of the curve in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions. This past spring the League implemented a new rule to prevent hits to the head by rendering illegal any lateral or blind-side hit where the head is the principal point of contact. An on-ice penalty component of the rule was instituted for the beginning of this season.

The hits-to-the-head discussion will also include an explanation of how the directives from the general managers' group regarding the rule are being handled, as well as a recap on the Mayo Clinic's recent Conference on Concussions from NHL attorney Julie Grand.

But the discussion of hits to the head is only one item on a generous agenda.

Florida GM Dale Tallon will again be lobbying for support of his idea to give coaches one challenge per game to go to video review on a disputed goal. Tallon said he believes his team was shortchanged earlier this season when Toronto forward Colton Orr was awarded a goal, despite the fact that video review showed he had interfered with Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun.

"My thoughts are on a goal-related issue each coach would have one opportunity to challenge and he can only challenge if it's a goal-related issue and he has his timeout available," Tallon said recently on NHL Live! "If he lost the challenge, he would lose the timeout. I'm throwing something up there to see if this thing has any legs at all. I think it does."

The GMs will also discuss the benefits of the Research, Development and Orientation Camp conducted here in August. They will receive analysis of the rules examined in the camp and offer opinions on the assessment of the camp from Hockey Operations.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly will provide an update on the NHL Players' Association and Collective Bargaining Agreement issues. The GMs have been asked to weigh in on what they would like to see amended for the next CBA, which will need to be enacted prior to the 2012-13 season.

An interesting debate could be had when the GMs review and discuss the overtime and shootout stats from the first month of the 2010-11 season in comparison to the first month of the previous four seasons.

The NHL removed the shootout win from a standings tiebreaker this season in hopes of making overtime more exciting. Through one month the difference is noticeable.

Going into Monday's action, 40 games this season have gone past regulation and 24 have been decided during the overtime session. The other 16 required the penalty-shot tiebreaker. This is the first time in the past five years that more than 50 percent of games tied after regulation get decided in overtime rather than a shootout.

At this time last season, 50 games were tied after regulation, but only 19 were decided in overtime, leaving the other 31 to be decided in the shootout.

Detroit GM Ken Holland is expected to propose a change to the current overtime/shootout format whereby overtime would be increased from five minutes to eight minutes and be divided into two four-minute halves. The first half would be 4-on-4 and if no goal is scored the second half would be 3-on-3. A shootout would follow if the game is not decided during the eight-minute OT session.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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