NHL takes first step towards banning hits to head

Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:47pm EST
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - National Hockey League general managers took the first steps toward banning shots to the head on Wednesday by establishing a committee that could recommend a rule change for next season.

"We're dealing with people's heads, people's careers," Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told reporters at the end of two days of meetings.

"Based on the conversation today and the points that were made I sense that we have a chance of some kind of change for next year.

Hits to the head have become the hot issue through the early part of the NHL season with the sight of players sprawled unconscious across the ice following vicious hits triggering calls for change.

The eight-member committee is unlikely to recommend an outright ban on contact to the head but is expected to eliminate blindside hits.

Any recommendation for a rule change must be presented to the NHL's competition committee and then put forward to the board of governors for ratification.

The issue is both complicated and sensitive. General managers understand the need to better protect players while expressing reluctance to reduce the physical element of the sport which they feel makes the game unique.

"None of us want to see hitting removed from the game," said Vancouver GM Mike Gillis. "It is an integral part of hockey, it's exciting, it's part of the fabric of the game,"   Continued...

<p>New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo (21) lays on the ice and gets attended to by a trainer before being taken off on a stretcher after being hit by Calgary Flames defencemen Dion Phaneuf in the second period of their NHL pre-season game in Calgary, Alberta, September 17, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>