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Wings agree with league's take on hits

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – On Tuesday, the NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously approved a rule meant to cut-down on blind-side hits to the head.

The Red Wings’ locker room seemed to be in total agreement with the new statute on Wednesday morning.

“I think it’s necessary to protect the players because there’s been more concussions this year then maybe before,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Some of the hits out there, I think, we can eliminate to protect guys better.”

The league posted a statement Tuesday on that says the approved rule prohibits “a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.”

The timing and details of implementation are being worked on by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department in conjunction with representatives of the players’ association.

Clearly, n Nobody wants to see vicious high hits like those delivered this season by Philadelphia’s Mike Richards and Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke on Florida left wing David Booth and Boston center Marc Savard, respectively. Savard, who suffered a concussion as a result of the hit, will likely miss the rest of this season.

The league did not suspend nor levy any fines against Cooke or Richards for their hits. 

Still, some players hope that the new rule is accompanied by a review policy.

“As long as there’s a review process, yeah, I don’t have a problem with it,” Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski said. “It’s hard for the refs in the game to see something that quick. But obviously, if there’s any question, they can review it later.”

The Wings’ players watched a league-produced video before their morning skate on Wednesday. The video was filled with examples of legal and illegal hits, including those on Booth and Savard.

“I still think there will be hitting in the game,” Kronwall said. “I thought it was clear on what you could do and what you couldn’t do. And you have to put yourself in a good spot so you don’t end up hitting someone’s head.

“Any time you go north and south on a guy, it’s all good. As long as it’s north and south, face-to-face, from my understanding, they still want the hits in the game. Now of course, if you end up hitting a guy in the head, it’s very unfortunate, but from my understanding if you go north to south it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked if he thought that the new rule would in some way adversely affect the physical nature of some of his players, namely Kronwall.

“Zero,” Babcock said. “He’s about taking the body and stepping up. They’re more from the blind side, the east-west stuff or chasing guys down from behind. That’s not how Kronner hits at all.
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“I don’t think anyone is trying to take out the physicality out of the game one bit. But you’re supposed to hit the guy’s body and not his head, so I thought they did a great job of coming up with that and making sure that it’s enforced, I think is critical.”

WINGS NOTEBOOK: Forward Dan Cleary, who missed the last two games with a pulled groin, will be back in the Wings’ lineup Wednesday when they host the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Cleary will skate on a line with Drew Miller and Jason Williams. …

Jonathan Ericsson will replace defenseman Brett Lebda in Wednesday’s lineup, Babcock said. …

Sporting a University of Michigan T-shirt, German middleweight boxer Arthur Abraham (photos above) was in the Wings’ locker room Wednesday morning. The IBF world champion is in Detroit for his scheduled 12-round fight on Saturday against Andre Dirrell, of Flint, Mich., at Joe Louis Arena. Saturday’s bout is the main event in a Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic.

For ticket information CLICK HERE.

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