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Winnipeg, head hits on Board of Governors agenda

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- A broader interpretation of the current rule governing head hits plus the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg can both become official Tuesday at the NHL's Board of Governors meeting in midtown Manhattan.

While considered a formality at this point, the Board of Governors still has to give its stamp of approval for the Thrashers sale to True North Sports and Entertainment and relocation to Winnipeg beginning with the 2011-12 season. The transfer of ownership from Atlanta Spirit to True North Sports and Entertainment requires a 75 percent approval from the Board while relocation needs a majority approval.

True North Sports and Entertainment is purchasing the franchise for a reported $170 million, including  a $60 million relocation fee.

If approved, the still unnamed Winnipeg franchise will play in the Southeast Division for one more season with the expectation  it will be moved into the Western Conference starting with the 2012-13 season.

"We mourn the loss of Atlanta, but we celebrate our return to Winnipeg, and we are excited about our future there," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the Stanley Cup Final.

The Board is also expected to vote on a broader interpretation of Rule 48, which would expand the scope of illegal head hits by taking the words lateral or blindside out from the current language to instead govern all targeted hits to the head. The League's general managers and Competition Committee have already voted to approve the re-written rule, but the Board is the final hurdle.

The exact wording of the proposed broader interpretation of Rule 48 has not been revealed, but if approved the presumed timeline would have the rule change go into effect for the 2011-12 season.

"Generally speaking it's taking Rule 48 and expanding it in a fashion that we think will protect players and specifically from illegal checks to the head," said NHL Senior V.P. of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan. "Last year putting in (Rule 48) was a good first step for the NHL, but we felt we could do more and go a little further."

The salary cap for the 2011-12 season is also expected to be discussed at the meeting, but NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Monday night it's likely that no official announcement on the salary cap will be made until next week.

Daly said at the Stanley Cup Final that the cap is likely to land somewhere around $63 million. It was $59.4 million for the 2010-11 season.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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