By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON The NHL Board of Governors is starting to make some progress on offseason improvements, and they beganTuesday with a vote to tweak both Rule 48 blindside hits as well as boarding calls.
Both Daniel Paille and Brad Marchand were suspended during the regular season for blindside hits to the head under the 2010-11 interpretation of Rule 48, and the lateral and back-pressure language has been taken completely out of the rule. That gives NHL officials and disciplinarians much more leeway under the new wording to punish players specifically targeting the head with a hit deemed suspension-worthy.
The language tweaking was discussed widely after Aaron Rome's head shot to Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, which wasnt considered a lateral or back pressure hit but nonetheless was deemed worthy of a four-game suspension.
Both rule changes arrive with a new NHL sheriff, Brendan Shanahan, who will replace Colin Campbell in the role as head disciplinarian and ruler on supplemental discipline for questionable hits. The new alterations could be construed as Shanahans first actions in his new role.
Heres the new wording approved by the NHL:
"48.1 Illegal Check To The Head 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.
"48.2 Minor Penalty For violation of this rule, a minor penalty shall be assessed.
"48.3 Major Penalty There is no provision for a major penalty for this rule.
"48.4 Game Misconduct There is no provision for a game misconduct for this rule.
"48.5 Match Penalty The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.
"If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the commissioner at his discretion."
The NHL also approved a new interpretation for boarding calls that will go into effect next season:
"New Wording of Rule 41 Boarding
"41.1 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.' "