NHLers warned about blows to the head by league, Gagne Staff

11/17/2008 1:25:51 PM

The NHL is trying to crackdown on unnecessary blows to the head.

The NHL's Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, Colin Campbell, had the following memo, obtained by TSN, posted in every NHL dressing room on Friday.

"Recently, we have had two (2) supplemental discipline incidents involving direct elbow blows to the head.  This is a play that we have been trying to remove from our game for a number of years.  In one case there was no injury and in the other incident the elbowed Player received a concussion.  Both Players delivering the elbows had never before been involved in supplemental discipline. 

"We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal.  Furthermore, both the history and status of the offender (first time versus repeat) and the nature of the injury caused (if any) will be taken into consideration as they have been in the past.  The length of suspensions for illegal blows to the head will be increased if these incidents persist across the League.  Taking steps to maintain the safest on-ice environment possible for the Players remains our most important priority."

The Players Association supports this move with executive Director Paul Kelly telling TSN, "The league is attempting to provide notice and fair warning to players, and we support the effort to protect the health and safety of our members."

Despite the memo, Philadelphia Flyers star Simon Gagne, who missed most of last season due to post-concussion syndrome caused by blows to the head, took another shot on Saturday from Montreal's Alexei Kovalev.  Afterwards, Gagne said real change has to come from the players, and he took the first step by speaking out harshly on the subject on Sunday.

"We have to take away the blow to the head," Gagne told Tim Panaccio of Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia.  "We have to do something about it. (Flyers GM Paul Holmgren) told me, 'You guys have to start talking about it. It's not going to come from the officials or the league, it has to come from the players.'"

The league reveiwed the Kovalev hit and will not be taking action, which had Gagne frustrated.

"Your goal when you go to hit a player, if the puck is there, you are looking to make a hit and take the puck away from him," Gagne told Panaccio. "If you look at the hit, the puck is not even there. Is he coming to take the puck away from me? I don't think so. He's coming to hurt me."

Kovalev did not receive a penalty on the play and Gagne said officals told him it was a shoulder check to the head, which is not against the rules.