The NHL released a statement that beginning with tonight's games, the league will implement a new rule prohibiting “a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.”
Under the new rule, the NHL Hockey Operations Department is empowered to review any such hit for the purpose of Supplemental Discipline.
“We believe this is the right thing to do for the game and for the safety of our players,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said after receiving unanimous approval from the Board of Governors as well as the endorsement of the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee and the NHLPA Executive Board. “The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game."
In short, even if a play is missed during the game and there was no penalty called, the league can look at the scenario after the fact and address a dangerous hit.
The players to a man were universally behind the adjustment, saying that the simple fact that big brother is watching and has more authority to address such attacks will help eliminate many such plays. A prime example for Sharks fans would be the hit by Raffi Torres that took out Milan Michalek in the 2006 postseason.
“It’s pretty obvious there is a need for it,” said Rob Blake. “They came to the conclusion for the rest of the season and they will revisit it in the offseason.”
“I agree, I’m glad it finally went through,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic
. “I hope they (the penalties) are severe. You don’t want to see guys injured. Lately you’ve been able to run someone in the head and almost get away with it.”
The fact that a suspension is now very likely in such instances should be enough to remove the ugly scenarios that have occurred this year. Blake is very confident this ruling will have enough teeth behind it.
“It will take those hits out of the game,” said Blake.
The NHL will still be among the most physical games in the world, it’s just that for the betterment of all, the cheap hits have now been removed.
“It will make you more conscious when you see a guy,” said Brad Staubitz. “It’s not whether you finish (your hit) but how.”
Blake summed the issue up best.
“It’s not part of the game,” said Blake.
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan noted he would keep his big three of Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
and Dany Heatley on separate lines for at least one more game.
“It worked the other day, I don’t know if it will work tonight,” said McLellan. “They’d probably like to play together and I want to see them together.”
The trio will still skate together on the power play.
Scott Nichol will have the night off with his injury.
“He’s day-to-day and won’t play tonight,” said McLellan.
Worcester netminder Alex Stalock
set an AHL rookie record, collecting his 36th victory of the season and the Sharks set a franchise-record with their 44th victory of the season as they defeated the Syracuse Crunch, 3-1, at the DCU Center, Tuesday night.
“He is a special kid that is ultra competitive,” said Worcester Head Coach Roy Sommer. “When he puts his mind to it he can accomplish anything. His goaltending numbers aren’t that great but he makes the big save and the last save when you need it the most.”
On Saturday, April 3, the Oakland Ice Center Operated By Sharks Ice is offering a free opportunity to try skating and hockey, including a special girls-only hockey class. All necessary gear will be provided. For more information and to register online, please visit www.oaklandice.com.
The Sharks will host Dallas Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.