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National Hockey Leagu Executive Vice-President and chief legal officer Bill Daly. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)
National Hockey Leagu Executive Vice-President and chief legal officer Bill Daly. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

Head-shots rule in NHLPA hands Add to ...

A truce of sorts took effect last night in the head-shots fight between the NHL and NHL Players' Association, although it will be at least one more day before the new rule will take effect.

The five players on the NHL's competition committee approved the immediate implementation of part of a new rule against blindside hits to the head. But the union asked the league for 24 to 48 hours to conduct a vote for approval from the NHLPA executive board.

The league grudgingly went along with the request.

Brief statements from each side were all that was said on the matter last night.

A missive from competition committee members Jason Spezza (Ottawa Senators), Jeff Halpern (Los Angeles Kings), Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), Brian Campbell (Chicago Blackhawks) and Mathieu Schneider (Phoenix Coyotes) said: "We have deliberated and endorsed to the NHLPA executive board the league's proposal to implement supplemental discipline this season for blindside hits to the head. Our executive board will vote on this recommendation and we will respond back to the league with a decision in the next 24 to 48 hours."

A few minutes later, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued an e-mail: "In response to the union's request, the league has agreed to wait until [today] before proceeding with implementation. Our strong preference remains to proceed on a co-operative basis with the players on this important issue."

Daly's rhetoric was considerably toned down from last Tuesday, when he took a shot at the union's leadership troubles. But he made it clear the NHL was not ready to wait 48 hours, which means the brinkmanship could resume tonight.

The labour agreement between the NHL and the players says no new rules or rule changes can be made until the competition committee passes a formal recommendation to the board of governors. But the NHL wanted to fast-track at least part of the proposed new rule - which was given to the competition committee by the league's 30 general managers - and it appears tired of waiting for the players' approval.

Last Tuesday night, the league announced its board of governors had unanimously approved the new rule, under which, blindside hits to the head will result in a minor or major penalty, plus an automatic review by the league, which could result in a suspension.

Because of recent public uproar over the issue of hits to the head, the NHL wants to implement the review portion of the rule immediately and leave the minor and major penalty calls for next season. The players on the competition committee indicated they would only approve part of the new rule for the rest of this season if there is more debate and perhaps a tweak of the proposal for next season.

Daly said this week the league does not require clearance from the competition committee and made it clear league executives had lost patience.

"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 via e-mail last Tuesday night.

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