Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Posted: 8:40 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
LAS VEGAS All the NHL had to do to gain greater clarity in determining head shots was eliminate two words lateral and blindside.
The leagues Board of Governors did just that on Tuesday in New York, now making any hit to the head where the head is the principal point of contact illegal, regardless of how it was delivered or from what direction it came.
Several NHL players here for Wednesdays NHL Award presentation at the Palms supported the new language, while Flyers forward Ian Laperriere questioned whether the league is slowly eroding the physical essence of the game.
Its a step in the right direction, said Detroits Nick Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, who is up for the award this year with Zdeno Chara (Boston) and Shea Weber (Nashville).
Weve seen some borderline hits that were legal from last season which I still say were head shots. I think this is good. We have to get head shots out of the game. And if it happens you have to pay for it.
Removing blindside helps, Lidstrom said, because the game moves so fast its not always possible for the officials to determine whether blindside was just that.
It makes it a lot more clear for everyone on the ice now that its a head shot, its a penalty, Lidstrom said.
Logan Couture, a finalist for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, has had some concussions already as a San Jose Shark.
From a person who has had concussions and gone through it, you have to take those hits out of the game, Couture said. Players have to be conscious of what they do on the ice. I am a firm believer in that.
You know what youre doing on the ice. You know if youre going to hit someone in the head. If your elbow is up or shoulder is up to the head. Im in favor of protecting he players.
Laperriere, a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, thinks this will be a disadvantage to players with a considerable size advantage in terms of contact.
Im not sure Im a big fan of this, Laperriere said. I saw Chara. I dont care if he hits me fair or not, hes going to hit me in the head. Hes 6-9. Its going to change the game if they apply it to a tee. Big guys wont be able to hit little guys.
Like Prongs Chris Pronger. Its going to be tough for him to play because every hit is to the head. But if that is what they want, that is what they are going to get.
The former wording to Rule 48 applied only to hits that came from the lateral or blindside. Those words are gone now. The change affects hits anywhere on the ice and from any direction.
The Board of Governors also modified Rule 41, which deals with boarding. A penalty will now be given to a player who delivers a hit on a defenseless player that causes him to hit the boards violently or dangerously.
Players must now try to avoid or limit contact against an opponent who is deemed to be in a defenseless position.
At the same time, the officials are to take into consideration whether the other player placed himself in harms way.
It also allows the referee discretion to determine whether the recipient of the contact
placed himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the collision and whether the check was unavoidable, the NHL announced.
Laperrieres career is basically over because of post-concussion syndrome brought on not by a head shot, but a puck to the right eye in the 2010 playoffs. Concussions are the No. 1 head injury the league is trying to cut down on.
Told that he was in the minority among players on this topic, Laperriere replied, Well see when they start calling everything and the game is slowed down so much. Its going to be a different game.
If you have big guys playing against small guys, theres always going to be hits to the head. I believe in taking those stupid hits away from the game, like elbows to the head, unnecessary, like we saw from Matt Cooke.
But a good, clean hit should stay in the game.
Yet, Laperriere did agree that blindside hits, such as Mike Richards hit a few years ago on David Booth, then legal at the time, was an example of a hit that needed to be remedied.
That should be out of the game because its blindside. He came from nowhere, Laperriere said. Theres no way a guy can protect himself.
Laperriere said the hitting is more violent now because obstruction has been taken away and players attack each other with speed unimpeded.
The same people who were complaining that our game was slow and hooking was part of it, now you are taking hooking out of it, obstruction away and the game is a lot faster, he said.
Well what comes with speed? Injuries. You cant hook. You take away the red line and now guys come with speed Im not saying bring obstruction back in the game, but at the end of the day, you got to live with the consequences when you change the game.
Tampas Marty St. Louis, whos a finalist for the Hart Trophy, supported the rules change.
We have to protect the players, St. Louis said. Theyre getting faster, getting stronger and when a hit to a head gets in the way, we have to find a way to let up. This is somebodys livelihood We have to be more cautious and play with more respect. Now maybe guys will think twice and slow down a bit.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, on his way to Minnesota, spoke to agent Ritch Winter about goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Both sides are inching closer to a contract. Holmgren said the two would talk again this weekend at the NHL draft which is Friday and Saturday in St. Paul.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TPanotchCSN.
Related: Greenberg: Flyers can't let Bryzgalov get away Flyers' Laperriere a Masterton trophy finalist