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NHL Governors approve major penalty for hits to head

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com
LOS ANGELES – A passionate debate about hits to the head that has lasted the better part of a year was officially settled Thursday night when the NHL Board of Governors approved a new penalty for next season.

The penalty for a lateral, blindside hit to the head, which will be called "illegal check to the head," is a five-minute major penalty, as well as an automatic game misconduct. The League also will consider supplemental discipline.

It was unanimously approved by the Board of Governors during Thursday's meeting, the first for the body since last December. The rule was proposed during the spring edition of the General Managers' Meeting in Florida after several controversial hits during the season.

"I think we are really pleased with where it is," Columbus GM Scott Howson told NHL.com. "But I also think it is something really fluid and we will have to continue to work at it if we see the need."

Cam Neely, the freshly minted president of the Boston Bruins, also stressed that vigilance would remain necessary, but was happy to see a mechanism in place to protect the League's players.

"I think it was important for the League to try to address this as quick as possible," Neely told NHL.com. "The GMs got on board, the Competition Committee got on board. Obviously, for the health of the players, it is good to get a rule like this in place and try to get it out of the game and get to a situation where you are going to have fewer concussions because of it."

While the head-hit penalty topped Thursday's agenda, the Board of Governors tackled several other issues during a five-hour session on the eve of the 2010 Entry Draft at the Staples Center.

The Governors were briefed on the economics of the game and presented with next year's budget, according to Commissioner Gary Bettman. There also was a presentation on the new salary-cap numbers, which were officially announced Thursday.

The Team Payroll Range established for the 2010-11 season, pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, provides for a lower limit of $43.4 million, an adjusted midpoint of $51.4 million and an upper limit of $59.4 million.

"Obviously, for the health of the players, it is good to get a rule like this in place and try to get it out of the game and get to a situation where you are going to have fewer concussions because of it."
-- Cam Neely

Commissioner Gary Bettman said there was also a discussion of 3-D broadcasts and how they can affect televised game presentation. A presentation was made to the Governors that included portions of the 2010 Winter Classic between Boston and Philadelphia that were filmed in 3-D.

"It needs some work and we have to figure out how the economics work, but we do think it has exciting possibilities for game on television," Bettman said.

The Board also approved transfer agreements with the hockey federations from Germany, Slovakia and Denmark.

Finally, the Board also agreed to join the Rock and Wrap it Up movement, a non-profit program that becomes part of the League's greening initiative. The program will recover leftover food from arena concessions and use it to feed the hungry.

"The combo of recycling and reusing is good from a greening standpoint, but it is also right thing to do in terms of feeding hungry people," Bettman said.


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