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Report: NHL to reword head-shot rule

Sep 9, 2013, 12:14 PM EDT

Torres hit

In last year’s NHL rulebook, here’s how Rule 48 concerning an illegal check to the head was written:

“A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.”

OK, now forget the “targeted” part, because here’s how the rule will be written this year, according to the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

“A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable.”

Writes Friedman:

You’re going to ask the obvious follow-up. How do you determine if the hit is avoidable? There are three circumstances to be considered:

First, whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.

Second, whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.

Third, whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.

The rewording would seem to make it easier for the league to suspend a player, given it used to be pretty easy to say a player didn’t intentionally “target” the head. As Friedman writes, “it puts added onus on the hitter to avoid recklessness.”

On the other hand, it’s still pretty easy to argue contact to the head is unavoidable in certain hockey hits, so it will all depend how the league’s disciplinarians apply the rule.

Suffice to say, we’ll still be debating the suspension-worthiness of head shots in 2013-14.

  1. themohel - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Well, at first blush this seems to make things even more vague; so now justice will be even less predictable, if that was possible.

    • bmscalise - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      I don’t know that it’s more vague. Vague before – vague now. I like the shift in burden of proof, for lack of a better word. But I suspect it will change very little in practice. Those who run the league are more fearful of “taking hitting out of the game” than they are of players getting hurt (or of a lawsuit, apparently).

      • sunderlanding - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        Players will always get hurt. They can’t get that out of the game, and they shouldn’t, but they can try to cut down on the hits that directly cause people to be seriously injured.

  2. kingsforever - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    lol look at that picture….
    And every Shark fan claims that hit was clean. Now they’re silent.

    • sjsblitz - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I must have forgotten that Stoll even said that hit was clean. You sir give the Kings a bad name

  3. sanjosecupcrazy - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Kings fan: This rule would have wiped out the Torres six-game suspension. What affect that would have had on the series is debatable, but if it hadn’t been Torres, the hit wouldn’t have warranted a suspension. There were other hits in the playoffs that were far more egregious that didn’t even get a second look.

    Unfortunately for the Sharks, this is going to be something that will follow them. If Torres so much as farts in someone’s direction, he’s going to miss a significant amount of time. If you look at his penalty minutes from last year, I think it’s very apparent he’s making an effort to be a different player.

    • sunderlanding - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      He may be, but when you have a reputation you don’t get the benifit of the doubt. I don’t have a problem with that. It encourages players to be clean right from the start.

      • skr213 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        … said the person who didn’t actually watch Torres play at all last season. His game has changed entirely. That’s why the suspension was so doubly unfair.

      • skr213 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        ok, why did this site place my reply to the wrong post?? sunderlanding, my post above was meant for a different post, not yours. My apologies.

      • sunderlanding - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        No problem. I’ve had the same problem before myself. Better luck next time.

  4. aventador12 - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Whether they change it or not, circumstances or reasoning, as we’ve all seen the inconsistency of how the League hands-out punishments and their basis making the decision, we’ll see. The League is a Joke regarding this matter.

    • sunderlanding - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      They’re actually pretty consistent. Let’s face it we all make mistakes, and the league is no different. For the most part they get it right, but fans will always be biased.

  5. mp1131211 - Sep 9, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    Why include the unavoidable line? When is a hit to the head unavoidable?

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:20 PM

      Sometimes a hitter might have a shoulder to shoulder hit lined up, but the guy getting hit slightly moves at the last second, changing the angle enough and it’s too late for the hitter to avoid the hit. Happens pretty often.

      Fairly recent example would be when Lupul got sandwiched between Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill from Philly. They both had Lupul lined up, but Hall hits him a fraction of a second sooner, turning Lupul’s body enough to leave his head vulnerable. Rosehill had a clean hit lined up, but it was too late for him to avoid any contact to the head.

  6. pirovash88 - Sep 9, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Torres is gonna be out of a job before next season ends.

    • skr213 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      … said the person who didn’t actually watch Torres play at all last season. His game has changed entirely. That’s why the suspension was so doubly unfair.

  7. jimw81 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    that nfl concussion settlement has started the chilling effects on sports. Wait until that documentary is shown on PBS.

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