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Dreger: Putting head shots to a vote

Darren Dreger
11/4/2008 8:06:16 PM
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Is it time the National Hockey League addressed the issue of hits to the head with a defined penalty?

The results of two NHL on TSN surveys point to growing support for just such a rule.

Of 33 NHL players who responded to the question, "would you support a penalty for hits to the head," 27 voted yes, five players voted no and one player said more research is required.

The issue has been a hot topic in player meetings during the NHLPA's current fall tour.

Of 26 general managers who responded to the question, 11 said yes - they would support a penalty for hits to the head; nine said no - and six said the issue is too complex for a "yes" or "no" answer.

The poll was anonymous, but Anaheim ducks general manager Brian Burke went on the record with vehement opposition to a new head checking penalty. "Our sport overreacts to any injury that occurs in clusters," he said. "I have been a GM for over 800 games and this is a dangerous path to start down."

One of Burke's colleagues countered by saying, "Yes, I believe we have to follow, for starters, what David Branch and the OHL has done with hits to the head."

The Ontario Hockey League banned head checking three years ago, and has seen penalties fall each year.

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly says there is concern over players' safety, but says whether a rule change is warranted is a matter for the competition committee to determine.

"It will continue to be discussed," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

The competition committee has no scheduled meeting, but head checking will be tabled for full debate in March at the NHL general manager's meetings.

Darren Dreger

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