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NHL GM's shoot down headshot penalty proposal

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The Canadian Press
6/2/2009 8:01:31 PM
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PITTSBURGH -- It doesn't appear that a headshot penalty has much chance of getting into the NHL rule book.

For the second time in four months, the league's 30 general managers have discussed the merits of a rule proposed by the NHL Players' Association and shot it down. League disciplinarian Colin Campbell showed the managers a video montage of hits as part of the presentation.

The GMs just have no desire to adopt a rule similar to what the Ontario Hockey League instituted this season.

"There's no appetite for a rule change on that," Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said after Tuesday's meeting. "We all think the existing penalties make sense and then, when a guy crosses the line, Colie bangs him (with a suspension).

"In the leagues where they've put in an automatic penalty, I think it's drastically reduced hitting, and we have no desire to see a reduction in the amount of contact that takes place on our ice surface.

"I know players seem to think it's important, and you hear (NHLPA executive director) Paul Kelly talk about it, but in our room? No appetite."

There was much of a substance to come from the meetings, which also included a session with team presidents in the afternoon.

The group decided to create a new award that honours the top GM each year -- although they've yet to finalize a process for voting on it.

"Yeah, there should be one," said Thrashers GM Don Waddell "There's a player of the year and a coach of the year. I don't know what we'll call it."

Burke had a few suggestions: Sam Pollock, Bill Torey and Glen Sather.

There were a few new faces in the room as the GMs gathered ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. Chuck Fletcher represented the Minnesota Wild for the first time while brand-new Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk also took part in the session.

Fletcher is the former assistant GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins and found himself back in the city during the championship series.

"It does feel different," he said. "My family still lives here. Cleaned out my office the other day here in Pittsburgh so I still obviously have ties, very close ties, to the team and to the area."

With the draft and free agency getting closer, there was plenty of chatter about players and potential moves.

Waddell confirmed that he recently met with captain Ilya Kovalchuk to talk about the direction of the team and indicated that the sides will start discussing a contract extension in July.

The Russian sniper can become an unrestricted free agent next summer and the Thrashers hope to sign him long before that.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton made it clear that financial issues won't force him to trade Vincent Lecavalier over the summer.

"If you're going to ask me if we need to trade any player because of economic reasons, I can tell you that it's absolutely not the case," said Lawton. "And anybody who suggests that is wrong and will probably be embarrassed in this next time frame as they have been from the very start of this ordeal."

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly said existing NHL rules to prevent head hunting aren't working.

"The system we have been using simply hasn't been sufficient to deter these type of potentially career-ending injuries," Kelly said in an interview Tuesday night. "I would think, frankly, that many of these GMs would feel some obligation to protect their star players.

"Look, I know that not all the GMs share the view of people like Brian Burke and I know that there are a number who think the view of the players and the rule we proposed is a reasonable approach and a sound approach for the future of this game.

"So I think that there will be further discussion. Our veteran players have strong views about the matter."

Kelly said he hopes the GMs on the competition committee will be open minded and consider what the players have to say.

Kelly also said that another issue the players will be heard from on in the coming year is drug testing.

"One of the things in the new NHL is that the players have a far greater voice," said Kelly. "There really are three big areas in testing.

"One is the playoff testing issue. That's never something the NHLPA sought to eliminate. That is something the league and the GMs didn't want playoff testing because they didn't want their guys to be distracted during the playoffs.

"That's an issue that is relatively easy to solve.

"The off-season testing one is a little more difficult."

Kelly said that in a sport where there's been no evidence of a drug problem, currently or in the recent past, to go to a complete off-season testing program creates a lot of practical considerations.

"However, this summer at our meetings, we intend to have a very serious open discussion with our players and, if our players vote to adopt an off-season testing program, then that's what we will do.

"The players will discuss it and we will vote on it."

Patrice Bergeron injured (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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