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Dreger: Leafs' Burke has idea to curb hitting from behind

Darren Dreger
4/1/2010 8:47:06 PM
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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke is convinced a good hug may go a long way to curbing a constant safety issue in the NHL - hitting from behind.

Burke is lobbying the league to allow what he calls a "bear hug," where a player, usually a defenseman, is allowed to wrap his arms around the targeted player, for a fleeting moment, while he takes him into the boards.

Burke says this change would avoid the "billiard-ball" force hits that exist now where all of the force is transferred directly from the "hitter" to the "hittee."

The Leafs General Manager cites Lightning defenceman Matt Lashoff's hit Wednesday night on Pittsburgh's Ruslan Fedotenko as a timely example. 

According to Burke, once Lashoff committed to the hit, he didn't have time to turn out of it.  However, had he been able to hold on to Fedotenko, even for a split second, the threat of injury would have been greatly reduced.

Burke has pitched this idea before and the league admits it may be time to take another look at it.

Although there are no definite plans, sources say NHL hockey operations will ask general managers if it's time to have a research and development camp.

The last such camp was held in Toronto in June of 2005, focusing on bigger nets and the elimination of the red-line. Bigger nets didn't fly, but the red-line rule did.

If the managers see merit in a similar camp, at least one GM wants to discuss bringing the red-line back into play.

Burke doesn't believe that will happen, however he says removing the red-line has resulted in a reduction in skill as some teams simply bank the puck off the glass and out of their zone, hoping a play develops before the offensive blueline.

Burke would like to see the ringette line - located at the top of the faceoff circle - brought into play, forcing teams in transition to advance the puck past this line before a stretch pass can be made.

A hybrid form of icing, whereby the forward beats the defenseman to the hash marks, eliminating icing, is also something Burke intends to push for.

Darren Dreger

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