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Sabres owner urges NHL review policy on blows to the head

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Sabres owner Tom Golisano urged the NHL to review its policy on violent hits to the head after the league chose not to punish Ottawa's Chris Neil for blindsiding and knocking out Buffalo co-captain Chris Drury.

In a letter addressed to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday, Golisano wrote, "I am deeply concerned with the standard the NHL has adopted that seems to allow violent hits to the head."

In asking Bettman to review the league's policy immediately, Golisano added: "What we cannot allow are hits that are designed to injure and maim."

Golisano accused Neil of attempting injure Drury, who is out indefinitely after experiencing concussion-type symptoms, questioned the NHL for ruling the check as legal and asked the league to review its policy.

Neil has maintained that the hit was clean and Drury should have had his head up.

The letter was released by the Sabres to the media, and comes after Drury was bloodied and knocked woozy after being hit from behind during Buffalo's 6-5 shootout win over the Senators on Thursday night. Neil was not penalized, and the check sparked a wild melee that lead to three players being ejected.

"We do not think this should be the standard, and we do not think it helps our game or the league," Golisano wrote, noting the NHL had informed the Sabres that the check was legal. "There is nothing manly about hitting a player that you can't see. ... There is nothing good to come of a policy that allows exciting, skilled players to be targets for what I believe to be a predatory play."

In an e-mail, NHL spokesman Frank Brown said: "The commissioner has not received the letter and he cannot comment on a letter that the media has seen before it has been received by the league."

Through a quirk in the schedule, the Northeast Division rivals played a rematch in Ottawa on Saturday night and the Senators beat the Sabres 6-5.

Prior to the game, the NHL announced it had fined Sabres coach Lindy Ruff $10,000 for his role in the brawl, which began on the next faceoff after Drury was hurt. Angered by the hit, Ruff sent out tough guys Andrew Peters, Patrick Kaleta and Adam Mair to take the faceoff against Ottawa's Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Comrie.

Afterward, Ruff admitted telling his players, "Go out and run 'em."

Golisano's letter closely mirrors comments made by Ruff on Friday.

Ruff described the hit as "predator-type" and said it came when Drury was in a vulnerable position after he had just snapped a shot on net from the right circle.

Neil was cruising through the middle, did not slow down, and turned toward Drury, who was partially looking the other way. Neil's shoulder caught Drury across the right side of the head, knocking Drury's helmet off and sending the player flying. Drury landed headfirst on the ice, the fall opening a deep cut across his forehead that required more than 20 stitches to close.

Drury scored his team-leading 33rd goal earlier in the game.

In his letter, Golisano referred to Neil's hit as "vicious," adding: "There are many times a player can make a hit on a vulnerable player but chooses not to for fear of injuring an opponent for no practical advantage. It's called respect."

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