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'Head shot' protection sufficient

by Dan Rosen
NAPLES, Fla. - There doesn't seem to be much support, if any, from NHL general managers for the proposed rule from the NHL Players’ Association that would assess a minor penalty if you hit an unsuspecting player in the head with any part of your body.

The GMs and the League both believe hits to the head are properly monitored now and sufficient supplemental discipline is handed out by way of suspension or fines when it comes to what the League perceives as targeted hits to the head.

NHL Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell cited two examples of supplementary discipline for hits to the head:

* Jarkko Ruutu was issued a two-game suspension for elbowing Maxim Lapierre in the face, even though it did not cause a serious injury.
* Brendan Witt was issued a five-game suspension for elbowing Niklas Hagman in the head.

Doug Weight's shoulder-to-head hit on Carolina rookie Brandon Sutter was not punished because the League deemed it to be legal and clean. Sutter had his head down and was searching for the puck.

"We have done a lot of work on that for two years," Campbell said. "We looked at 52 hits and we went over every hit with the general managers and it took four or five hours in a meeting and then we addressed it with every team. We also addressed it this year with supplemental discipline. We're trying to protect heads.

"Our managers didn't have any appetite right now to have that called on the ice," Campbell continued. "The players, as a group, can come to the Competition Committee and ask us to make that call if they want."

Toronto GM Brian Burke believes implementing a rule on hits to the head would reduce the amount of hitting in the game, which is the last thing the GMs want to see happen.

"To me we have the tools in place to deal with that," Burke said. "If a player crosses the line and the head shot is severe enough then suspend him. I've got a player missing games right now (Hagman) with a concussion and the player that got him in the head (Witt) got suspended. We have a system in place. I don't think we need a rule change."

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