No longer will NHL referees need their protractors and compasses when it comes to making a call on a blow to the head.
Today the NHL Board of Governors removed the words “lateral” and “blindside” from Rule 48 and adopted a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
Here’ how the rule now reads:
“A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was unavoidable, can be considered.”
This rule change was partly encouraged by the hit by Vancouver’s Aaron Rome on the Bruins’ Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final (which was a hit to the head, not shoulder-to-shoulder — sorry Vancouver zombies.).
The BOG also updated the wording on Rule 41 (Boarding):
“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 severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.
“There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the referees when applying this rule.
“Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player hitting or impacting the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as ‘charging.'”