Before I touch on the Central League recap, there are a couple NHL topics to discuss: Winnipeg, hits to the head, and the Awards Ceremony. Caution: terrible segues ahead.
The Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg MB was officially approved by the NHL Board of Governors yesterday. I’m fairly certain all the jokes have been made about this already. I’d like to extend my sympathies to the 25 or 30 fans left in Atlanta at the end of last year. As a life long Braves supporter, I know too well the fickleness of Atlanta sports fans. Much like my hometown Charlotte, the ATL is full of people from other parts of the country. In theory this means a traditionally northern sport like hockey should work with all the northerners down here. Unfortunately when you put an embarrassing product on the ice people don’t want to come see it. Wonder what will happen to those giant flame-spitting Thrasher heads in the rafters at Philips….
Speaking of heads, the NHL has revised how they want players to make contact with them. First, Rule 41 Boarding was revised to give more responsibility to the player getting hit. On paper it sounds silly to think a guy that’s about to get his vertebrae compressed into his skull should be held accountable. On the ice, however, we’ve all seen a boarding call that was technically legitimate come from a guy turning his back at the last micro second. Referees will now be able to take into account whether a player had the chance to get out of being boarded, or if he made the hit worse by repositioning himself.
Last year the NHL announced it would begin enforcing hits to the head that came from the player’s blindside, aka Rule 48. The words “lateral” and “blindside” have now been eliminated from the rule book to put more focus on any hit to the head. Like Rule 41 Boarding, the player getting hit can now be held responsible should he put himself in a position to get hit high. There are to be no minor penalties called on illegal hits to the head; a major and game misconduct will be assessed on offending players. Hopefully this eliminates dangerous hits while giving some thought to a guy who’s 6’15″ like Zdeno Chara hitting a guy that’s minus-5’10″ who likes to lean away from hits like Max Pacioretty:
More exciting than a concussion, the NHL Awards Ceremony is tonight in Las Vegas. Versus and the CBC will be carrying live coverage at 7:00pm ET. Tune in to see Tim Thomas have his tires pumped till they burst and Jeff Skinner win the Calder for Rookie of the Year. You think all those puck bunnies and teeny boppers who voted for his outfit in Seventeen magazine will be watching? I don’t care either as long as he wins. NHL.com has a nice preview up with rundowns of the finalists for each trophy.