Penguins' Shero still hopeful for head hit ban
Penguins general manager Ray Shero on head shots: "I wouldn't want to see my son hit that way, and I don't think that hit should be in the game."
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BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Sure, Ray Shero arrived at the NHL general managers meetings with an agenda. He hoped for widespread support of a ban on hits to the head.
That didn't happen, although based on the GMs' recommendations there could be something beyond Rule 48, which outlaws some head hits, as well as stricter enforcement of existing charging and boarding calls starting next season.
Shero, though, made it clear his support of what he calls "zero tolerance" for hits to the head was not formed because of the concussion that has sidelined Penguins star center Sidney Crosby for 10 weeks. Crosby was injured on hits in successive games by David Steckel, then of Washington, and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman. Neither was suspended, and Steckel wasn't penalized.
"People think since January my view has changed," Shero said Wednesday as the three-day GM session wrapped up.
"That's not the case. It's probably changed over the last year and a half."
If Shero's stance was reactionary, it was rooted in a thundering hit that Philadelphia's Mike Richards delivered against Florida's David Booth in late October 2009 that knocked Booth out and sent him to the hospital. It drew a lot of attention when Richards was not fined or suspended.
"I came out at that point and said 'I don't like that hit,'" Shero said. "I wouldn't want to see my son hit that way, and I don't think that hit should be in the game."
Then last March, Penguins winger Matt Cooke laid out Boston's Marc Savard and drew no supplemental discipline. That was just before a set of GM meetings, where Rule 48 was devised.
Shero is hopeful that more GMs will gravitate toward zero tolerance on hits to the head.
"Some guys might be on the fence, and some guys might never change their stance because that's the way they believe the game should be played," he said. "I think we all respect each others' opinion."
Shero has faith that the GMs want to improve player safety and are willing to set aside rivalries and competitive notions. He noted that a year ago, he and Boston's Peter Chiarelli -- the GMs on opposite sides of the fresh Cooke-Savard incident -- traveled together to these meetings.
"We shared a car. We talked about it," Shero said. "General managers want to get this right whether it's your player or someone else's."
The issues raised by the GMs will be forwarded to a blue-ribbon committee of GMs -- Steve Yzerman of Tampa and Joe Niewendyk of Dallas -- and the NHL's Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake. They will work with the NHL competition committee and the NHL Players Association in advance of the June board of governors meetings, where changes could be implemented.
In addition to some sort of middle ground between Rule 48 and a complete ban on head shots, and a crackdown on charging and boarding, there could be equipment and arena alternations to promote safety.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there would be steps taken to hold teams and coaches responsible for players who are suspended, particularly repeat offenders. Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, in a private letter to the league, proposed a stiff set of automatic fines.
With the discussions about player safety exhausting most of the first two days, the GMs touched on a few other issues on their final day.
There was discussion about perhaps allowing coaches to issue in-game challenges that prompt a video review -- "There wasn't enough in favor of it to carry it forward," Ottawa's Bryan Murray said, although Shero is a fan -- and about making more things besides whether a puck crosses the goal line subject to video review.
First Published March 17, 2011 12:00 am