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NHL Changes Rule On Hits To Head

By: Mike Vukovcan
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Matt Cooke, Fedor Tyutin

Penguins winger Matt Cooke was suspended four games for this hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets Feb. 8. (Photo credit: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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Pittsburgh (KDKA)- The NHL’s new boss in charge of discipline has changed the rules on hits to the head.

Brendan Shanahan has sent videos to all NHL training camps showing the changes.

The first rule specifically addresses hits to the head. Here’s what the league posted on its official website.

The NHL changed Rule 48 to render illegal all hits where the head is targeted in an intentional and/or reckless way and is the principal point of contact. A minor penalty will be assessed for infractions of this rule and the possibility of supplementary discipline exists.

The referee can use his judgment to determine if the player put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneous with being hit, as well as if the contact with the head on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable.
“Now, the confusion some of the players have expressed in the past as to what direction they’re approaching a player, what direction a player is facing, east, west, north, south, that has all been taken out,” Shanahan said. “Anywhere on the ice, coming from any direction, you target the head and make it a principal point of contact, you’ll be subject to a two-minute penalty. You’ll also be — as with all two-minute penalties or non-calls — subject to supplementary discipline.”

Shanahan has also made changes to the penalty of boarding. Once again, according to the NHL website:

The boarding rule was amended in several ways in order to put the focus on the violent — and possibly dangerous — contact with the boards rather than the actual point of contact.

This season, a boarding penalty will be assessed to a player who checks or pushes a defenseless player in a manner that causes the player to have a potentially violent and/or dangerous impact with the boards. The word “pushes” was added to the rule and “defenseless” replaced the word “vulnerable.”
The onus now is going to be on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position. If he is, the player applying the hit must avoid or, at the very least, minimize the contact.

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