NHLPA OK with fast-tracking rule

Updated: March 24, 2010, 8:58 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The NHL Players' Association is one step closer to endorsing a proposed head-shot rule the NHL is urgently trying to put into place for the end of the season.

The five players on the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee released a statement Wednesday night saying it had given its blessing to fast-tracking the NHL's head shot rule but first wanted a further vote from the union's executive board (30 player reps).

"We have deliberated and endorsed to the NHLPA Executive Board the League's proposal to implement supplemental discipline this season for blindside hits to the head," read the statement from Ryan Miller, Brian Campbell, Jeff Halpern, Jason Spezza and Mathieu Schneider. "Our Executive Board will vote on this recommendation and we will respond back to the League with a decision in the next 24-48 hours."

The NHL and NHLPA spent the day trading communication over the heated issue. The league also released a statement Wednesday night, saying it had received and accepted the NHLPA's request to "secure the approval of its Executive Board prior to proceeding with the implementation of the proposed new rule regarding hits to the head. In response to the Union's request, the League has agreed to wait until tomorrow before proceeding with implementation. Our strong preference remains to proceed on a cooperative basis with the players on this important issue," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in the statement.

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 as per their right in the collective bargaining agreement. That triggered an exchange of heated comments from both sides.

The league is threatening to implement the rule with or without the players' consent and deal with the grievance later. But it appears the players won themselves one more day to consent.

The modified head-shot rule approved by owners Tuesday night and still being considered by the players only includes supplementary discipline but not a penalty on the ice like the original rule change recommended by GMs 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 transpires when the Competition Committee meets again in June.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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