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NHL Governors cover cap, Coyotes, head hits rule

by Shawn P. Roarke /
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As the National Hockey League enters its busiest stretch of the regular season, with the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the 2011 All-Star Game presented by Discover and the 2011 Heritage Classic all dropping pucks in the next 10 weeks, the League's Board of Governors is meeting for the next two days here to discuss the state of the game.

Among the topics on the agenda for the meetings is the salary cap for next season, an update on the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes and the effectiveness of the rule banning blind-side hits to the head put into place at the start of the 2010-11 regular season.

NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell will update the board members on the effectiveness of Rule 48, which was instituted to curtail lateral or blind-side checks to the head. Campbell made a presentation to the League's general managers last month on this same subject, stating that the new rule appears to be having its intended effect as players are starting to modify their hitting style in those situations to avoid not only penalties, but the fines and suspensions that are part of the new rules package.

"We showed a couple of hits, one by (Boston's Zdeno) Chara and one by David Backes from St. Louis where we think, for example, they were getting it and they could have followed through their hit but they made an effort to go shoulder to shoulder," Campbell said at the GM meetings.

"We can't forget the big picture, and the big picture is to save careers and reduce this type of concussion," Campbell said then. "Fifty percent of our concussions came from the blind side. We know there are going to be questions on what's the blind side, what's a direct shoulder to the head, but we're dealing with it. If it means losing a player for half a game because it might have been the wrong call, the greater good here is that we want players to learn."

On the Phoenix Coyotes front, prospective new owner Matt Hulsizer was expected to interview with the Board's executive committee Monday morning to provide an update on his talks with the city of Glendale and his plans to purchase the team from the NHL.

The Coyotes have been one of the best stories of the early part of the 2010-11 season.
Qualification for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs set the bar high for this season, and the Coyotes stumbled out of the gate after splitting a season-opening series against the Boston Bruins in Prague, Czech Republic. However, the Coyotes have found their stride and have been one of the League's hottest teams in the past month. At 13-7-6, the Coyotes sit second in the Pacific Division, just one point behind Dallas. Their 32 points are tied for third-highest in the Western Conference -- with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks -- and in the top 10 in the League.

In another piece of ownership housekeeping, distinguished Flames owner Harley Hotchkiss will ask the Board to approve the sale of his 22-percent stake in the Calgary franchise to the team's other investors as he ends his legendary tenure will the club.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will discuss the salary cap and League revenues with the Board members during this meeting, as well. Although there have not been any official statements, multiple media outlets have reported League revenues are up, and as a result the salary cap will rise from its current $59.4 million. The increase could be as much as $2 million, according to reports.

On Tuesday, Bettman will wrap the two days of meetings in historic fashion by becoming the first pro sports commissioner to hold a press conference via Cisco TelePresence.

Using the advanced technology of Cisco Telepresence, Commissioner Bettman will welcome into his Palm Beach press conference additional reporters, who will be located in New York, Toronto and San Jose. Reporters in any of the remote locations will be able to see and be seen by Commissioner Bettman as they direct their questions to him in real-time.

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