The NHL today sent out a note that they have cleaned up the wording on Rule No. 48, the rule put in place at the Winter GM Meetings that “kind of” started the penalization of head hits in professional hockey. The statement reads (from NHL.com);
Rule 48 previously provided the on-ice officials with the ability to call a major penalty for any targeted head hit from the lateral or blind side, but the re-written rule no longer includes the words lateral or blind side, and the major penalty provision has been replaced by the minor penalty provision.
“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,” said Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior V.P. of Player Safety and Hockey Operations. “Anywhere on the ice, coming from any direction, you target the head and make it a principle point of contact, you’ll be subject to a two-minute penalty on the ice for Rule 48. You’ll also be — as with all two-minute penalties or non-calls — subject to supplementary discipline.”
This should, stress on the word “should”, eliminate any hits being made to the head with anything other than a high stick or puck, or the occasional errant appendage. If the NHL was trying to eliminate any gray area then simply changing Rule 48 to read: “Any contact made to the head of a player – with any part of the body or equipment – whether of intentional or unintentional nature shall be subject to a two-minute minor penalty.” There were plenty of solid hits that would have not been deemed illegal under the new NHL clarification or the above sentence. It should be rather simple as I have heard many hockey commentators suggest; if you keep your stick on the ice then your hands, elbows and shoulders will not get anywhere near the opponent’s head, unless you launch yourself, which would lead to boarding. Which as it happens, was also rewritten;
In addition, Rule 41, which covers boarding, was also changed to read, “A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously.”
The words “pushes” and “defenseless” were previously not included in the definition of the boarding rule. Defenseless replaced the word vulnerable.
Another small “golf clap” for the NHL for making some changes, but instead of taking the band-aid off slowly why not just rip it off and make the changes that are undoubtedly going to find their way into the game, heck the younger leagues and international hockey already have them.