Annotated Proposed Head Contact Rule

Here’s the original post and here’s the Google Docs version of this draft.

I realized I should probably explain some of my thinking on parts of this.

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.

Here’s the basic definition. Tolerance for head contact would be greatly diminished under this rule. I propose keeping the contact on follow-throughs because completely eliminating head contact would reduce hitting in the game, and I’d like to keep the sport’s physicality as much as possible. While at the same time safeguarding the head against the obvious stuff.

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

The high-sticking penalty applies in every situation except shot follow-throughs or wind-ups, and the same principle applies here. If a player accidentally elbows a guy in the head while digging the puck out of the boards, it’s a penalty. If he misses the chest and hits the head on a check, it’s a penalty. And so on.

The exception is as described above: when contact is made through the chest or other primary contact point. Update (08. Feb 14): On @wingingitmotown’s recommendation, reworded this clause to grant the officials some leeway to judge the level of carelessness involved in an incident. True accidents shouldn’t be penalized, but carelessness also needs to be a consideration. The refs and players would have to find a balance. — Matt

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, whether accidental or careless 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.

Here’s where it could get somewhat problematic with potential faked injury abuse, as Zac pointed out. I still think it’s important to have a rule for lesser offenses and try to include safeguards against abuse. So, officials would need to be on the lookout for situations where Rule 64 would be applicable.

Also, to ensure the Quiet Room tests are reliable, it may be necessary to incorporate some kind of League medical observer for that portion. If there’s any doubt, a player should not be allowed to return to the game. And I’m not convinced anyone tied to the team in any way should have final say.

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.

This is a key element and would apply if contact was severe yet without intent to injure. Severe recklessness and carelessness would be punished as well.

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.

Like DRAFT.3, this could be abused, though it should only be in play on high profile hits where an injury is more likely to be real.

A possible rewrite of this would be to apply a minimum 10 minute misconduct on top of the five minute major to allow for the completion of the Quiet Room tests. If the hit player passes, the hitter could reenter the game. Otherwise, it becomes a game misconduct.

That might get too complicated, though. As I go over this again, I just envision circumstances where a hitter is ejected incorrectly, when ejection is based on injury.

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.

If there’s intent, there’s not a lot of mercy for you under this rule.

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.

All hits under this rule would be reviewable in case the officials missed something about the circumstances in real time.

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.

Again, if you intentionally hit someone in the head, you’re not getting a break under this rule. You’re off the ice immediately and facing the hammer.

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

And I mean extreme for the one-time part. Like a hitter puts a guy in a coma, snaps his neck or cracks his skull extreme. But it needs to be included.

And it should go without saying that serial offenders don’t belong in the game after a point.

Again, I welcome any comments on this. If it sucks, tell me. If you have changes you’d make, let me know.

It’s just been bouncing around in my head and even if it won’t go anywhere, I had to get it down.