NEW YORK (AP) -All that stands between the NHL and a rule banning blindside hits to the head is final approval from the players' association.
The union's representatives on the competition committee signed off on the new rule Wednesday. The executive board will soon vote on the proposed edict to eliminate dangerous hits against unsuspecting skaters. If the ban passes, the NHL will be allowed to issue supplemental discipline to violators as early as Thursday.
"We have deliberated and endorsed to the NHLPA Executive Board the League's proposal to implement supplemental discipline this season for blindside hits to the head," the six players on the committee said in a statement. "Our Executive Board will vote on this recommendation and we will respond back to the League with a decision in the next 24-48 hours."
The NHL board of governors unanimously approved the proposed penalty Tuesday. The league's general managers first proposed the rule earlier this month.
"Following discussions today between the NHL and the NHLPA, including player members of the Competition Committee, the NHLPA has requested additional time to secure the approval of its Executive Board prior to proceeding with the implementation of the proposed new rule regarding hits to the head," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday night in a statement. "In response to the Union's request, the League has agreed to wait until tomorrow before proceeding with implementation.
"Our strong preference remains to proceed on a cooperative basis with the players on this important issue."
Florida forward David Booth missed 45 games this season after getting hit by Philadelphia captain Mike Richards - a play that was legal at the time, but will no longer be tolerated under the new system.
An unpunished blindside hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke against Boston's Marc Savard on March 7 also increased pressure to enact a new rule. Savard sustained a concussion that will likely sideline him for at least the rest of the regular season.
The GM meetings began the day after Savard was hit.