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NHL Clarifies Illegal Check To Head Rule [article]


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NHL clarifies illegal check to head rule

The updated 2013-14 NHL rulebook is not yet available, but when it does go online, you will see some changes.

We were expecting most of them: limits on goalie pad sizes; mandatory visors for players with less than 25 games played; and the elimination of the "attainable pass" language from icing.

But there is one unexpected modification.

Rule 48.1 (Illegal Check to the Head) used to read as follows: "A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted." Personally, I found the "targeting" issue difficult to determine at times. NHL speed didn't always make it easy, especially if there weren't enough camera angles with a proper view.

The competition committee suggested finding different wording. The league and NHL Players' Association both agreed, spending the summer finding something acceptable to everyone.

This is not considered an official rule change, which involves a lengthier process. Instead, the language was altered for greater clarity. Now Rule 48.1 declares an illegal check to the head as "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."

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.

Obviously, we need game action to see how this change affects things. But in theory, it makes a lot of sense. By eliminating "targeted" and adding "avoidable," it puts added onus on the hitter to avoid recklessness. Ultimately, that's what you want.

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The thing that I think needs to be added is a provision where if a player is caught with his head down, it's his fault (suicide passes not included). If you pull a Nathan Horton or practically drop your head into another guy's shoulder because you're not paying attention, tough crap.

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The thing that I think needs to be added is a provision where if a player is caught with his head down, it's his fault (suicide passes not included). If you pull a Nathan Horton or practically drop your head into another guy's shoulder because you're not paying attention, tough crap.

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