TORONTO - The NHL is growing impatient with the players' union while it continues to mull over a proposed rule outlawing blindside hits to the head.
In an effort to speed up the process, the league's board of governors unanimously approved the head shots rule on Tuesday night even though it has yet to hear back from the NHL Players' Association or competition committee.
The collective bargaining agreement calls for rules to go through the competition committee before being voted on by the board, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated the league might not adhere to that process in this instance.
"As we have stated repeatedly in the past, the creation of the competition committee has not eliminated the role of the board of governors in passing and implementing rules that it deems to be in the best interests of the game," Daly said in an email. "While we are intent on continuing to work with the PA and the competition committee as we have been doing for the better part of two weeks now, to the extent we do not receive a timely answer, we will have to make our own decisions in the best interests of the game and the players."
The union doesn't believe the league has that power.
It received a DVD outlining the details of the proposed rule on Friday night and held a conference call with its five player representatives on the competition committee. The NHLPA intends to send its response back to the league this week.
"Under the CBA, the league's proposal cannot take effect until it first receives the support of the joint NHLPA/NHL competition committee, and then is endorsed by the NHL board of governors," said union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon. "To date, the competition committee has neither agreed on a proposal, nor forwarded a proposal to the board of governors for its vote."
It's the first evidence of a battle between the two sides since the NHLPA fired former executive director Paul Kelly in August. A search is on for his replacement.
The NHL is essentially looking to fast-track the head shot penalty that general managers originally proposed for next season. A series of recent incidents upped the pressure on them to act sooner.
The 10-man competition committee is comprised of five players, four general managers and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider. Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza, one of the players on the committee, said Monday that the union wanted to tweak the proposal it received from the GMs.
"It's very similar," said Spezza. "We're looking for a Band-Aid fix for the rest of the year in case something happens, but in the long term, we have to sit down together and find a better solution than just tweaking a little rule. It has to be something that's talked about. It can't just be sprung on.
"It's too bad because we've been talking for two years to try to get something in place, but it's hard to find the proper language and the right rule."
The NHLPA first expressed a desire to see a head-checking penalty in March 2009.
Clearly, there is a desire for some kind change from both sides. The current disagreement seems to be over how the change will be made and who will make it.