Doing away with shots to the head

As the Detroit Red Wings prepared for last night’s game with the St. Louis Blues, they had some other business to attend to prior to their morning skate.

On Tuesday night, the league announced that its owners had approved a modified rule to help curb blindside hits to the head.

“The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors unanimously approved a rule prohibiting a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact,” the league stated on their website. “The timing and details of implementation are being worked on by the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department in conjunction with representatives of the National Hockey League Players’ Association.”

Yesterday morning, the Wings got briefed and then watched a DVD that was presented by their union rep, defenseman Brian Rafalski.

“I think everyone is pretty much on board with it,” Rafalski said. “I haven’t heard anybody really say no. I think this is a good thing for the league.”

According to Rafalski, the DVD showed illegal hits from the side and behind and regular hits that were initiated by the shoulder and chest.

“I don’t think this will be a hard transition at all,” Rafalski said. “As long as there’s a review process I have no problem with it. It’s hard for the refs to see something that quick. If there’s any kind of question they can always review it later.”

As of late Wednesday, the league and NHLPA were still trying to iron out details of the rule.

The NHLPA released a statement saying, “We have deliberated and endorsed to the NHLPA Executive Board the League’s proposal to implement supplemental discipline this season for blindside hits to the head. Our Executive Board will vote on this recommendation and we will respond back to the League with a decision in the next 24-48 hours.”

However, according to the league it doesn’t have to wait for the players’ consent to enact a rule, which has been rumored that the league will do as early as last night.

If that happened the NHLPA would more than likely file a grievance.

Shots to the head have been a major focus this season.

Florida’s David Booth missed 45 games after getting hit in the head by Philadelphia’s Mike Richards. Richards did not receive a penalty for that hit, but would under this new rule.

Also, Boston’s Marc Savard suffered a concussion earlier this month after he was blindsided by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. Savard may be sidelined the rest of the season.

“I think it’s necessary, mostly to protect the players,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “There are more concussions this year or at least it’s being talked about more. Some of the hits out there I think we can eliminate and protect guys better.”

Kronwall is known for his bone-crushing hits in open ice and along the boards. He’s not worried it will affect his game.

“I think they still like hitting to be in the game,” Kronwall said. “It was pretty clear in the video what you could and couldn’t do. You just have to put yourself in a good spot so you don’t end up hitting someone’s head.”

Kronwall took away from the video that anytime you’re going to hit a player north-and-south and hit them square it shouldn’t be a problem.

Kronwall also said none of his hits were on the DVD. The hits on Booth and Savard were.

“Hits to the head shouldn’t be tolerated,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “The league and the players’ association should stand behind it. I don’t think anyone is trying to take the physicality of the game away one bit, but you’re supposed to hit the guy’s body and not his head. Making sure it’s enforced is critical.”

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