New faces on hand for meeting
TORONTO -- The NHL and NHLPA's competition committee will meet here Friday, and there will be new faces in the room.
David Backes of the St. Louis Blues as well as Columbus Blue Jackets teammates Mike Commodore and Chris Clark join the union side of the committee along with incumbents Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and Mathieu Schneider of the Phoenix Coyotes.
The focus in Friday's meeting will be largely on the new head-shot rule NHL GMs proposed in March. The new rule, which would impose an on-ice penalty for a blindside hit to the head, would go into effect for the 2010-11 season. But it first needs the approval of the competition committee followed afterwards by the NHL's board of governors -- which meets next Thursday in Los Angeles.
At its meeting earlier this month during the Stanley Cup finals, the GMs were in full agreement that offenders be given a major penalty and an ejection. If the committee agrees, the proposal will be passed on to the board of governors for final approval.
Until now, such hits only subjected players to supplemental discipline -- not in-game penalties. The committee comprised of players, general managers and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider will look to get consensus on a new rule that could be enacted for next season.
The issue has been debated for over a year following a proposal from the NHL Players' Association that all hits to the head be penalized. The general managers were originally cool to the idea, but a series of incidents this season prompted them to recommend a penalty for blindside head hits at the end of their meetings in March.
The competition committee will look to define the specific framework for the rule.
"We don't want to take the physical play out of the game but we want to keep the players safe," the Coyotes' Schneider said Thursday. "That's the main goal and what our main message has been all along."
The players on the committee might suggest their own tweaks to the rule Friday. The sides haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but there seems to be plenty of room for consensus.
Among the other issues expected to be on the agenda for the competition committee on Friday is a discussion on changes to goaltending equipment and a close examination of the proposed outdoor game scheduled for Calgary's McMahon Stadium next February.
The NHL also has new faces on the committee. Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford are taking part on a temporary basis, replacing Don Waddell, Kevin Lowe and Bob Gainey on Friday.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.