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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Updated: March 24, 9:26 AM ET
NHLPA has yet to approve rule

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

The NHL and NHL Players' Association collided on a proposed head shot rule Tuesday night.

The league announced Tuesday night its owners had approved a modified rule to help curb blindside hits to the head, but the players had still not given it their approval.

"Under the CBA, the League's proposal cannot take effect until it first receives the support of the joint NHLPA/NHL Competition Committee, and then is endorsed by the NHL Board of Governors," NHLPA senior spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said Tuesday night in a statement.

This is a rule that's intended to make the game safer for the players. ... The PA needs a hockey person, or at a minimum a player, who is willing to take charge, to step up and make a decision in the best interests of the game. ... Someone needs to show leadership, and they need to do it fast.

-- NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly

"To date, the Competition Committee has neither agreed on a proposal, nor forwarded a proposal to the Board of Governors for its vote. As we have previously stated, the NHLPA's Competition Committee members are finalizing their response to the NHL's proposal regarding blindside hits to the head and will be responding back to the league this week."

Under league rules, the NHL can enact the rule without the players' consent. If that were to happen, it's likely the NHLPA would file a grievance against the league.

"In our view, the PA's public statement is not consistent with either the letter, spirit or intent of the CBA," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com in an e-mail. "Having said that, we remain committed to continuing to work through the process in an attempt to work collaboratively with the players and the PA on this very important issue. Ultimately, having devoted the better part of two weeks in attempting to engage them in dialogue, if we do not receive a timely answer, we will be forced to make a decision as to how to proceed."

Daly continued: "Without trying to throw anyone under the bus here, let's be real. This is a rule that's intended to make the game safer for the players. Its a no-brainer. The PA needs a hockey person, or at a minimum a player, who is willing to take charge, to step up and make a decision in the best interests of the game.

"It's one thing to 'punt' on all the more mundane issues surrounding the game until the Union has a new Executive Director and a clear direction. We are used to that. But this is different. Someone needs to show leadership, and they need to do it fast."

The NHLPA has been without an executive director since firing Paul Kelly in August, 2009.

Earlier Tuesday night, the NHL posted a release on its Web site announcing the owners' approval of the modified, expedited rule. The governors needed a 30-0 vote to approve a rule in mid-season.

"The National Hockey League's Board of Governors tonight unanimously approved a rule prohibiting 'a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.'

"The timing and details of implementation are being worked on by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department in conjunction with representatives of the National Hockey League Players' Association."

On Monday, star goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, one of the five players on the Competition Committee considering the NHL's proposal to fast track a head-shot rule for this season, said his group was trying to educate fellow players before making a decision.

"We are making sure all of our members are aware of what the league is recommending," Miller told ESPN.com in an e-mail. "After everyone knows the options we will proceed. Even though it is the right direction we can't 'surprise' players with a rule while in season. I think it is about time they are taking this issue seriously. We at the NHLPA have been pushing this for years and have always been told the rules cover head shots and have been frustrated when players have suffered because of a dangerous and/or unnecessary hit.

"This rule will be temporary until we can meet in the summer."

The modified head-shot rule approved by owners Tuesday night and still being considered by the players only includes supplementary discipline. The altered rule does not include an on-ice penalty as was the original rule change recommended by general managers two weeks ago at their annual meeting. The on-ice penalty is expected to be made part of the permanent rule for next season, depending on what transpired when the Competition Committee meets again in June.

Florida Panthers forward David Booth missed 45 games this season after getting hit by Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards -- a play that was legal at the time, but will no longer be tolerated under the new system.

An unpunished blindside hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke against Boston's Marc Savard on March 7 also increased pressure to enact a new rule. Savard sustained a concussion that will likely sideline him for at least the rest of the regular season.

The GM meetings began the day after Savard was hit.

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.