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NHL's competition committee to recommend changes to head hitting rule

NHL video reviewers work in the \

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NHL video reviewers work in the \"war room\" in Toronto Monday, November 29, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

BOSTON - The NHL's competition committee has signed off on changes to rule 48 that will see the blindside aspect of the penalty removed for next season.

The group met for several hours on Monday and discussed a broader definition of the rule—something that still needs to be rubber-stamped by the board of governors when it meets in New York on June 21. Even though the specific language of the revised rule wasn't finalized, committee members left the meeting confident it would happen in the coming days.

"We don't like some of the hits that we see and we don't like the results of those hits," said Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "The numbers of concussions are hard to ignore. That was the goal in mind.

"I think there's a broader spectrum of hits that will fall into this category now."

It's expected the change will see the blindside aspect removed from the rule. Moving forward, any body check delivered squarely to the head of an opposing player—even those that come straight on—will be subject to on-ice penalties and potentially harsh suspensions from new league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.

"There were hits shown that were deemed legal last season that would not be anymore," said Habs forward Mike Cammalleri.

"The discussion today should lend itself to Brendan being able to have more of a black and white idea of what we're looking at as a hit we want out of the game and I think that's good for everybody," added Cammalleri.

A key component to the new rule will spell out that the person being hit is in a defenceless position. For example, there will be no penalty handed out when a player gets hit in the head while reaching for the puck—as Dallas Stars forward Loui Eriksson did by San Jose's Douglas Murray in March.

The competition committee is comprised of five players, four general managers and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider. Cammalleri and Blackhawks defenceman Chris Campoli attended their first meeting since being named to the group—as did Nieuwendyk and Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.

There was a fairly positive vibe from all sides when it wrapped up.

"In the end we all want the same thing, we all want to make the game as safe as possible," said Shanahan. "We know it's a physical game, we know there's always going to be injuries and there will always be concussions but we want to make the game as safe as we possibly can."

They also want to eliminate the confusion players seemed to have in the first season of rule 48's existence.

Once the final wording is agreed upon and the governors approve it, video will be sent to every team detailing the changes so players can be educated before the start of next year.

"We tried to clean that up and make it a little more black and white," said Nieuwendyk. "There's always going to be grey area because it's a physical game and things happen. But I think we're taking steps to make the game safer."

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