As concussions continue to receive more attention, all leagues are looking at ways to reduce the number of high impact collisions to players’ heads.
The NHL has taken a surprisingly aggressive approach to this issue. The modified Rule 48 gained a lot of momentum and was expected to pass through a vote of the competition committee. A lot of former players expressed their support and many of those players are now holding positions with the teams or the league. When the league first proposed the initial rule it was met with a lot of skepticism, but as the season progressed and head injuries such as those to Sidney Crosby showed how severe the impacts could be GM’s decided that they should look at ways to strengthen the rule.
So it came as no surprise when the NHL approved the stronger ban on head hits and clarified the language to allow better implementation.
Players will now face a minor penalty for any hit that involves primary contact to the head and shots that target an opponent’s head and make it the principal point of contact. The original wording to Rule 48 applied only to hits that came from the lateral or blind side. Those words have been eliminated.
Gary Bettman highlighted the league’s proactive history on concussions:
“We were the first sports league to have a working study group on concussions that involved physicians, trainers, the players’ association and the league,” Bettman said. “We were the first sports league to do baseline testing, we were the first sports league to have protocols for the diagnosis and return-to-play decisions. We’ve been amending our rules to deal with hits to the head. Our record on this has been at a point where we’ve been out front on the issue.
“We’re doing the most that we can to protect players,” he said.
But despite that progress, the league is still hesitant to eliminate all hits and wants to maintain a physical game that is different from the European style.