Preseason games have already begun and the regular season is only a few days away. There are some areas in the rules that will begin to get enforced with strict emphasis. The biggest change you will see is with head checks. In the video below you will see many players who suffered head injuries such as concussions and penalties were not usually called. It could potentially cost the career of Paul Kariya, and its effects has lingered onto this season as players such as Marc Savard and David Booth will not be ready to begin the season.
This season, lateral and blind side hits to the head like those seen in the video will now be called more severely than simply a minor penalty. They will be called either a Major accompanied by a Game Misconduct, or a Match Penalty. This is a good move by the NHL because shots to the head were becoming all to common, and it also helps clean up the game. Hits like the ones to Savard and Booth were completely unnecessary. If a defender wants to play the body at the same time as a player is releasing the puck, he needs to learn to make shoulder-to-shoulder contact or hip-to-body contact. Expect the first couple players to be penalized under this to receive hefty fines from the league.
Next you will see legal checks. As you can see with those legal checks, the player applying the hit is doing so legally. In the the first clip (at 2:20) where Phil Kessel is leveled by a Tampa defender, the defenders shoulder makes contact with the Maple Leaf logo on Kessel’s chest. It was a textbook north-south check to take Kessel off the puck. It didn’t help Kessel that his head was down either.
In addition, points of emphasis the officials will be looking in more detail to make the proper penalty calls are:
Clipping– Where a player will purposely drop their shoulder or hip to take out a player’s knees or legs. The difference between an illegal hit such as clipping and a legal check such as a hip check is that a hip check the defender is making contact with the attacking players midsection or hip area. The two differences can be seen at the 3:48 and 4:00 mark of the video.
Contact on Icing– It’s about time the NHL has taken a look at unnecessary hits on icing plays. Having the “touch icing” rule in place is dangerous for the attacking player as it is, and the league is trying to make it more black-and-white and less of a grey area for both the players and officials. In addition (such as the clip seen at 4:38), it will prevent after-whistle scrums like seen there.
Altercations off of Playing Surface– Now, misconduct and potentially a game misconduct and even fines will occur to players who are off the ice and make contact with a player who is either on the opposing bench or on the ice.
Warm-Up Altercations– Any teams whose players become involved in an altercation other than during the periods of the game (examples include before the game, between periods, or after the final horn is sounded) can face a $25,000 fine or other disciplines from the league.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct– Any identifiable player who makes an obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures at anyone (including fans) will be subject to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and other disciplines from the league.