The NHL finalized a new blindside hit rule on Thursday that will ban blindside hits to the head, effective immediately. The rule is intended to prohibit “a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.”
“I don’t think there are too many people who are going to argue against it,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think the players want a little bit of security when it comes to that and what I personally like about the rule is that there is responsibility for both sides. You can’t expect the player carrying the puck to be able to see what is behind him in a way where there is what is called blindside hits but at the same time also puts the responsibility for the puck carrier. If you are going to put your head down and you get hit head on it becomes your responsibility. They are not taking hits out of the game and they are putting the responsibility, and the right responsibility, on both players.”
Julien said that coaches were shown a video of the type of hits the league is talking about but, to be sure, the rule was sped through the system after the brouhaha of Matt Cooke’s hit to Marc Savard on March 7. The Flyers’ Mike Richards hit to Florida’s David Booth earlier this season was also impetus to implement the rule. Booth missed 45 games after the hit.
The rule initially calls for a suspension for blindside hits with no in-game penalty this season though it is likely that an in-game penalty will be instituted by the start of the 2010-11 season.
“Personally, I think it is pretty black and white,” Julien said. “A blindside hit or a head on hit. We are talking about hits to the head. You can hit from the side, as long as you are not hitting the head … To me it is pretty clear the way it has been explained and if they want to put it into play anytime I am for it because it doesn’t take practice, it takes common sense.”
Patrice Bergeron, no stranger to concussions after questionable hits, completely agreed with Julien that the rule is more common sense than any type of game changer.
“For me it is a rule that is kind of common sense,” Bergeron said. “It is a rule that should have been in place and now that it is I hope everyone’s going to think about it … I don’t think it is going to change the game, I think it is still going to be a physical game. There will still be some good hits but those hits, direct to the head are careless and there is no need for it and I am just happy that there is a rule in place now.”
Ultimately, Bergeron said, it is up to the players to do the right thing on the ice.
“I think in between the players we need to be responsible, we need to think about the actions before we do it,” Bergeron said. “Kids are watching, it’s something important but first and foremost it is the players.”