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NHL competition committee to discuss hits to head @NHLdotcom

TORONTO (AP) -The NHL could soon be one step closer to on-ice penalties for blindside hits to the head.

After the league's 30 general managers unanimously recommended that players be penalized and ejected from games for newly outlawed hits, the 10-man NHL competition committee will pick up the debate Friday.

At its meeting earlier this month during the Stanley Cup finals, the GMs were in full agreement that offenders be given a major penalty and an ejection. If the committee agrees, the proposal will be passed on to the board of governors for final approval.

Until now, such hits only subjected players to supplemental discipline - not in-game penalties. The committee comprised of players, general managers and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider will look to get consensus on a new rule that could be enacted for next season.

The issue has been debated for over a year following a proposal from the NHL Players' Association that all hits to the head be penalized. The general managers were originally cool to the idea, but a series of incidents this season prompted them to recommend a penalty for blindside head hits at the end of their meetings in March.

The competition committee will look to define the specific framework for the rule.

"We don't want to take the physical play out of the game but we want to keep the players safe," Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Mathieu Schneider, one of the player reps on the committee, said Thursday. "That's the main goal and what our main message has been all along."

The sides haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but there seems to be plenty of room for consensus. Any recommendation from the competition committee will be subject to approval from the board of governors, which will meet next week in Los Angeles before the NHL draft.

Among the other issues expected to be on the agenda for the competition committee on Friday is a discussion on changes to goaltending equipment and a close examination of the proposed outdoor game scheduled for Calgary's McMahon Stadium next February.

General managers Brian Burke (Toronto), Jim Rutherford (Carolina) and Ken Holland (Detroit) are new to the committee, joining holdover David Poile (Nashville). Current players Mike Commodore (Columbus), David Backes (St. Louis) and Chris Clark (Columbus) will join Schneider and goalie Ryan Miller (Buffalo), who were already members.

"The guys that have been involved in the past have done a great job," Schneider said, "but any time you bring new blood in - especially the younger guys - for me it's exciting to see them involved."

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