Hockey Canada has called for rule changes to protect players from any contact to the head, both accidental and intentional.
President Bob Nicholson made an impassioned speech Friday at Hockey Canada's annual general meeting outlining the need for a rule amendment to address all head contact. Nicholson spoke to hockey delegates gathered from across the country noting the rise in concussions over the past two seasons and insisting "our playing environment must promote fair play and respect."
To help accomplish that, Nicholson asked the delegates to consider a proposal that would see changes made to the existing Checking to the Head rule 6.5. Instead, it would be called Head Contact and read as follows:
"In minor and female hockey, a minor penalty will be assessed to any player who accidentally contacts an opponent in the head, face or neck with their stick or any part of the player's body or equipment. If the contact is intentional then it's a double minor.
In junior and senior hockey, a minor and a misconduct penalty, or a major and a game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the referee based on the degree of violence of impact, will be assessed to any player who checks an opponent to the head area in any manner. A major and a game misconduct penalty shall be assessed any player who injures an opponent under this rule.
A match penalty will be assessed to any player who deliberately attempts to injure or deliberately injures an opponent under this rule."
Hockey Canada first implemented a head-checking rule in 2004-05 but is asking for clearer, more defined guidelines in time for the 2011-2012 season. (The rule changes for junior and senior hockey would be held a year while the Junior Pilot Project gathers more data on blows to the head and dangerous hits.)
Delegates at the Hockey Canada AGM will break into council meetings Friday and Saturday and discuss the rule change., among other issues. A motion is expected to be presented Saturday.
Hockey Canada said it will begin an awareness campaign for players and coaches and will also produce videos to help educate people on how to reduce head contact.