Update: Rule lives or dies with competition committee

March, 17, 2010

So now, we wait on the players. They have the power at this point.

Ryan Miller, Mathieu Schneider, Jason Spezza, Jeff Halpern and Brian Campbell hold the key to whether the NHL will be able to expedite its proposed rule change regarding head shots. Those five players sit on the competition committee, the joint rule-making body of the NHL and NHL Players' Association.

The NHL's 30 GMs introduced the rule change last week at their meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., and it was believed at the time that it would not see the light of day until next season. But, as my colleagues and I first reported on our "Hockey Night in Canada" Hot Stove panel over the weekend, the NHL has decided it wants to expedite this rule change as quickly as possible.

One notable change, however, which a league spokesman passed on late Wednesday afternoon. For this season alone, the NHL is seeking only to expedite the league's ability to impose supplemental discipline as per the new head-shot rule, not the penalty on the ice. The feedback from teams around the league over the past 48 hours suggested there was concern it was a lot to ask from the men in stripes to call that new penalty while in the middle of a season. That change would still come next season instead.

So for now, the league wants only the supplemental discipline part of the new rule brought in. For that to happen, the players still have to sign off on it via the competition committee, which wasn't scheduled to meet until June but may now convene via conference call once it receives all the information regarding the rule change from the NHL. The league sent the official language of the proposed rule change to the players' union Tuesday. Also, the NHL was in the process Wednesday of cutting a DVD to clearly show what the new rule would deem legal and illegal in terms of hits, which also would be sent to the union.

"We've started to receive the materials from the league, and the competition committee will review it," NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon told ESPN.com on Wednesday, adding that while players did not want to delay the review, there was no specific time frame.

Once the competition committee gets together on a conference call to approve the new rule (and who knows whether the players will want to amend the rule or not), the NHL's board of governors (30 owners) then would need to approve it via a fax vote. According to league bylaws, any rule change coming during the season needs a 30-0 vote. Not a point to be underestimated, by the way. You never know with owners.

"It's a fluid process at this point," a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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