BOSTON -- The ever-evolving helmet and visor rule enforcement was in the spotlight Monday night in Boston as players, coaches and management all attempt to figure out how things will be called during the regular season. The NHL now penalizes players two minutes for willingly taking their helmet off prior to a fight in an effort to lessen head injuries associated with hockey fighting.
Aaron Volpatti and Boston defenseman Kevan Miller squared off in Boston’s defensive zone in the first period after the Washington skater came in a bit high on Miller in a physical exchange in the corner. A review of the video showed that Miller unsnapped his helmet as the two were getting ready to throw punches, and then Volpatti removed Miller’s bucket while also tossing off his own at the same time.
Both combatants then tossed a series of punches at each other with Volpatti earning the decision after catching Miller directly in the nose with a heavy right handed blow. Both players were whistled for the customary five-minute major for fighting, and each skater was also whistled for a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct after taking off the other player’s helmet.
Perhaps this is the way it will go down, and it won’t affect much of anything. Seven minutes in penalties for each fighter, and no disadvantage for either team in a good, clean hockey fight where each player freely wanted their helmet off before the scrap. No harm and no real foul for either Volpatti or Miller as they both served equal time for the crime.
“I told the referee we should have had a two-minute power play on that because, well, [Aaron] Volpatti took his off but then he took [Kevan] Miller’s off," Claude Julien said. "So we shouldn’t have had a penalty right? [The referee] just laughed at me. I was actually making fun a little bit of what just happened. Guys are trying to be creative. Obviously it’s a tough rule. I guess you have to abide by it, but players are always looking to get around those kinds of things.
“It doesn’t look like its overly popular right now but they’ll have to get used to it. When you talk about what the league’s trying to do, it’s trying to make this game safer. You’ve seen guys -- and I think you’ve seen some in preseason -- that have fallen and knocked their heads on the ice and it turns into concussions and they split their heads open. That can be dangerous. It’s the league taking precautions to try and make the game safer and eventually the guys will get used to it.”
As Julien noted, most tough players around the NHL don’t have much use for the visor rule or helmet rules that have been put in place for this season.
But it already seems as if players are feeling their way through it, and looking for the inevitable loophole that allow fighting to continue as it has since the beginning of hockey times.