Part of the new rule against blindside hits to the head went into effect last night.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the supplemental discipline portion of the rule - which calls for an automatic league review and possible suspension for any hit to the head from behind or the blindside - was activated prior to teams taking the ice yesterday.
The announcement was made after the executive board of the NHL Players' Association endorsed the decision of the five players on the league's competition committee to support the NHL's wish to fast track that part of the rule.
However, the union's executive board said its approval only extends to the rest of the 2009-10 regular season and the playoffs. More debate and possible changes to the rule proposal - including an on-ice penalty part - are expected this summer, before it can go into effect permanently.
"This temporary implementation will ensure that the joint NHLPA-NHL competition committee will have time to develop and consider a proper and full-time rule, one that includes an on-ice penalty component, this summer. We are encouraged by the league's recent willingness to explore on-ice rule changes as a means of reducing player injuries and have no doubt that by working together, a safer working environment can be established for all NHLPA members," the executive board said in a statement.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was pleased with the move.
"We believe this is the right thing to do for the game and for the safety of our players. The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game," he said in a statement.
It is about time the league stepped in on the issue of blindside hits, Florida Panthers forward David Booth says.
Booth has been limited to 28 games because of a concussion sustained when he was clocked by Philadelphia Flyers centre Mike Richards last Oct. 25.
"Maybe if it was in place earlier on, [Boston Bruins centre Marc]Savard wouldn't have been injured in that way," the 26-year-old said yesterday after his team's game-day skate at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke's controversial hit on Savard on March 7, came at a similar position on the ice as the Richards incident.
"Maybe [the new rule]will prevent something between now and the end of the season," said Booth, who has become the NHL's unofficial poster boy for head shots since he was blindsided. And it's not a role he particularly cares for.
"It's a bad thing," Booth said of his new-found status. "I'm just a guy who got hit."
Just a few hours after addressing the head-shot question, Booth had to be helped off the ice after Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jaroslav Spacek put a shoulder into him during a second-period rush.