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Dreger: Head-checking, hits from behind in the spotlight

Darren Dreger
11/18/2008 9:39:25 PM
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NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly says the competition committee is considering a conference call prior to the NHL All-Star festivities in January in Montreal with the issue of head-checking and hitting from behind tops on the agenda.

Kelly believes a rule change - potentially something subtle - addressing hits to the head will happen as early as next season, adding "it's a serious enough issue that something will be done."

Both the league and the players association agree a blanket rule outlawing head-checking similar to what the Ontario Hockey League has is doubtful, but Kelly suggests tweaking an existing rule such as "intent to injure" is a possibility.

Removing the trapezoid, the area behind the goal line where NHL goaltenders are allowed to play the puck, is another idea that will get discussed by the competition committee.
Some believe, the combination of forwards barreling in on the forecheck, protected from obstruction, and goaltenders not being allowed to freely move the puck have contributed to injury.

Paul Kelly wonders if Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn would have been in the same vulnerable position if Vesa Toskala had been allowed to get to the puck before Montreal's Tom Kostopoulos raced in to complete his check, resulting in a series of injuries to Van Ryn and a three game suspension for Kostopoulos.

The instigator rule will also find its usual place in discussions with players supportive of boosting the cumulative number of instigators from 3 to 5 before an automatic two game suspension is applied.

Players argue the threat of headhunters facing fighters in retaliation is another means of reducing headshots.

Darren Dreger

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