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On-ice penalties left out of interim rule

3/22/2010 - NHL

The five players on the NHL/NHL Players' Association competition committee continue to mull over the league's proposal to fast-track a modified head-shot rule.

But the players weren't quite ready Monday to give the league an answer, although that is expected to come this week.

"We are making sure all of our members are aware of what the league is recommending," Buffalo Sabres star goalie Ryan Miller, a member of the competition committee, told ESPN.com via e-mail late Monday afternoon. "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."

Miller and the four other players on the competition committee (Mathieu Schneider, Jeff Halpern, Jason Spezza and Brian Campbell) had a conference call Friday night to discuss the NHL's demand to fast-track a modified version of the blindside head-shot rule for the rest of the season. The diet version of this proposed rule change would see supplemental discipline only, and not on-ice penalties as the original rule recommended from GMs asked for two weeks ago. The full, permanent rule change will be voted on this summer and possibly put into effect for next season.

In the meantime, the players on the competition committee are being asked by the NHL to agree to the diet version of the rule.

"We're looking for a band-aid fix for the rest of the year in case something happens, but for the long term, I think we have to sit down together and find a better solution than just tweaking a little rule," Spezza told reporters in Montreal on Monday. "It has to be something that's talked about. It just seems everything's been sprung on [us]. It's just hard to find the proper language and the right rule."

In other words, the players may tell the league over the next few days they are OK with the fast-track version, but only for the rest of the season. When it comes to the permanent rule change, they want more dialogue and a bigger say.

Players contacted by ESPN.com this past weekend were frustrated nothing was done after they first proposed head-shot legislation last season.

"I think it is about time they [the league] are taking this issue seriously," Miller said in the e-mail to ESPN.com. "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."

When asked for an official update on the situation late Monday afternoon, ESPN.com received this e-mail response from NHLPA senior spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon:

"... The NHLPA held a conference call with our competition committee members on Friday night and our committee members over the last couple of days have been discussing the league's proposal with their fellow players, similar to the GMs on the competition committee, who discussed the proposed rule with their fellow GMs while in Florida at the GM meetings. Following the completion of their review of the league's proposal, the NHLPA's Competition Committee members will be responding back to the NHL this week."

Weatherdon said the league provided a video to the NHLPA demonstrating on Friday "legal" vs. "illegal" hits under the GMs proposal.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.