Player safety was yet again the focus at Day 2 of the NHL's GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. on Tuesday, and the most important news of the day came when Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that there is no support for a rule that would completely ban head shots.
Bettman looked cool and collected in his white summer shirt, although admittedly he does look a little off when he doesn't have a tie on. You can tell why they have this event in Florida every year, though. In any event, he discussed how the GM's differ when it comes to the topic of head hits.
"There is not support on a widespread basis for a blanket head hit rule," Bettman said, "but we are going to look to see if we can come up with a head hit rule in addition to Rule 48 that focuses on dangerous hits -- hits when a player is vulnerable or engaged with another player and a third player comes in, or where there is excessive force."
Bettman went on about the need for caution in implementing a blanket head hit rule that would supplement Rule 48, which bans blindside hits to the head.
"We think if you're going to have even more of a head hit rule than we have on Rule 48, we need to do it with more precision and we are going to try to see if we can define something using those factors."
Colin Campbell echoed what Bettman had to say, while also giving a slight jab to fans and media in Montreal who have been livid with the NHL and their discipline process in the aftermath of the League's non-suspension on Zdeno Chara following his hit on Max Pacioretty.
"Our managers looked at all of the issues that have been hot buttons for the fans and the media this year," Campbell said, "and there's been incidents, as there is every year in certain games that raise the level of intensity in certain markets."
"Our managers looked at the big picture. They are a good group of hockey people with varied experience, but a lot of experience. I think they addressed all of the incidents that sometimes raise more attention than others in the scope of what's good for the game and how we should run things."
Your move, Habs fans.
Several other issues were covered by the general managers on Tuesday. Including:
- With regards to the Pacioretty hit, Bettman and Campbell continued to stress that the consensus is that the hit was just an unfortunate accident. Instead of focusing on the hit itself, which the League stresses was still a legal one, they need to focus on the "rink environment," a phrase used two days in a row by the Commissioner now.
"When we polled the managers, overwhelmingly they thought it was a hockey play and a bad, unfortunate, horrific accident," Bettman said.
- Boarding and charging were given much more focus, as Bettman announced that those types of penalties are up drastically from prior years.
"Boarding and charging is a focus of attention for us, particularly in terms of seeking stricter enforcement, more aggressive enforcement," Bettman said. "And in that regard, we are going to be looking to articulate a standard, which is consistent with being stricter, more aggressive, in terms of the enforcement -- a standard that the officials and the players can be comfortable with and we'll take out some of the acts that are not being called as boarding or charging and making them penalties and perhaps beyond."
"In that regard, we are also looking at hits and boarding calls or non-calls below the goal line, and we want to look at the force and the distance traveled, particularly in that context, as well.
In terms of implementation of these new rules, there isn't much of a time line as the League, the NHLPA and the Competition Committee takes the time to review these suggestions from the general managers. Bettman did say that they hope to have more of a concrete handle on things by the time the Board of Governors holds their next meeting during the Stanley Cup Final in June.