A Rule Proposal for Dealing with Head Contact

Update (08. Feb 14): See the latest draft of this at Google Docs. – Matt

I believe some kind of rule like this is inevitable. The NHL will have to ban head contact, at least so far as they “ban” fighting now, someday.

By that I mean, it’s penalizable, but not an automatic suspension in every case as a actual fighting ban would presumably be. Not all head contact is created equal. This rule includes every stage of punishment to allow for nuance, not a single level that acts as a blunt instrument.

So, this is a draft. If you have comments on things you’d like to change, please post a comment, or head to this draft on Google Docs to comment or make your own copy to edit yourself. If you make a copy and write your own version, let me know.

I base this on the high–sticking rule, with some language and ideas pulled from other rules (Rule 58, Rule 41, Rule 59, Rule 48).

The Rule

Rule DRAFT – Head Contact

DRAFT.1 Head Contact – “Head Contact” is a hit, with any part of a player’s body, in which the head is targeted or the principal point of contact. Players and goalkeepers must be in control and responsible for their bodies at all times.

However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent’s head if the contact occurs as a normal continuation of a hit originating elsewhere on the opponent’s body. This contact will be deemed a part of the normal follow–through of an otherwise legal hit.

DRAFT.2 Minor Penalty – Any non–follow–through contact, even if accidental through carelessness, made with the opponent’s head is prohibited and a minor penalty shall be imposed.

DRAFT.3 Double–minor Penalty – When a player hits an opponent’s head so that injury results or play is stopped due to an apparent injury, the Referee shall assess a double–minor penalty for such contact, even if accidental through carelessness, in the opinion of the Referee.

In addition, the injured, or apparently injured, player will be inelligible to play until the completion of a mandatory 15 minute period in a “Quiet Room,” where tests for any head injury will be completed.

DRAFT.4 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the head contact, to a player guilty of hitting an opponent’s head.

DRAFT.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

DRAFT.6 Match Penalty – When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent with a hit to the head, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player. A deliberate attempt to injure is here defined as any deliberate attempt to hit an opponent’s head.

DRAFT.7 Fines, Suspensions, and Bans – All hits as defined under this rule are subject to possible review under Rule 28. However, when a major penalty and game misconduct are imposed under this rule, an automatic Rule 28 review by the Department of Player Safety will be undertaken.

In addition, when a match penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic indefinite suspension shall be imposed, pending further review by the Department of Player Safety.

In extreme circumstances, egregious one–time or repeat offenders may be subject to possible ban.

Filed under: NHL

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  1. Zac MacRostie says:

    That's good. The only thing you would really have to watch out for is, in the case of Draft #3 is a player staying down and milking it for the double. A star player probably wouldn't, but what would prevent a fourth liner who doesn't see PP time from doing it? You would have to take away interpretation and start with a double-minor for all head-shots, accidental or otherwise.

  2. Matt Saler says:

    Thanks, Zac. Yeah, there's definite room for abuse there. Increased vigilance on the diving front and maybe including a neutral medical observer in the off-ice officiating crew could help mitigate that.

    But maybe a double-minor starting point would be the way to go. Definitely something to think about…

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