The National Hockey League's Board of Governors unanimously approved a rule prohibiting hits on an unsuspecting player where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.
The league's 30 general managers proposed the rule earlier this month. It was intended to be implemented next season, but a series of recent incidents - Bruins star Marc Savard having his season ended and Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook getting crushed by Anaheim's Wisniewski - prompted the league to look at fast-tracking the process.
However, a spokesman for the NHL Players' Association said a rule hadn't been submitted by the competition committee - as per the process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
"Under the CBA, the league's proposal cannot take effect until it first receives the support of the joint NHLPA/NHL competition committee, and then is endorsed by the NHL board of governors," said spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon. "To date, the competition committee has neither agreed on a proposal, nor forwarded a proposal to the board of governors for its vote. "
According to Weatherdon, the NHLPA's competition committee members are finalizing their response to the NHL's proposal and will be responding back to the league this week.
The NHL is awaiting the competition committee's response to the proposal, however as early as Wednesday night, every NHL team (players, coaches, managers) and on-ice official will have seen a DVD detailing the new rule and will be made aware of the proposed policy change on the blindside head shot.
As reported earlier, there is no desire to institute a specific rule change at this time that carries a minor and/or major penalty. The intent is to get approval to permit supplementary discipline this season to punish those types of hits.
While any rule change requires approval of the competition committee, the NHL, if it were inclined, could unilaterally impose the policy. Obviously that would cause hard feelings with the Players' Association but in the short term the only recourse would be for the Players' Association to file a grievance with an independent arbitrator. Grievances are not likely to be heard for quite some time.
So if the NHL were to follow that route, it could enact the new policy/rule as early as Wednesday night.
"Our Board can enact rule changes at any time with or without Competition Committee approval," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in response to the NHLPA statement. "To the extent the Competition Committee has approved the rule change in advance, it is entirely insulated from PA challenge. To the extent it is not a Competition Committee-approved rule, the PA is free to challenge under whatever "theory" they may have available to it. We have been attempting to work through the PA and the Competition Committee for 10 days now on what the League considers to be a very important issue. To the extent we do not receive NHLPA or Competition Committee sign-off or approval, we will consider all available options and make a decision in the best interests of the League and the players."
The NHL said it is awaiting the Players' Association's response and want to see what counter proposal they are suggesting. The fact the NHL took it to the board of governors before getting competition committee approval suggests it's possible the league could impose it. It remains to be seen.