If inter-office memoranda and news releases were still distributed by paper instead of via the Internet, the NHL would have taken out an entire Canadian forest with yesteday's announcement of redefined rules for boarding and hits to the head. Get a load of this mumbo jumbo:
"A boarding penalty will be assessed for a hit on a defenseless player that causes the victim to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The new wording requires the player delivering the check to avoid or minimize contact if his opponent is defenseless. It also allows the referee discretion to determine whether the recipient of the contact placed himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the collision and whether the check was unavoidable."
How's that for clear as mud, and all in regards to something that happens at speed and in a split second? Meanwhile, here's the new deal on head shots:
"A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. The qualifying terms "lateral or blind side" for such hits have been deleted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was unavoidable, can be considered."
Bottom line: no matter what the rules say, boarding with intent to injure and hits to the head are still judgement calls, meaning nothing's going to change unless the NHL has the will to enforce the rules. The discretionary escape clause for officials strongly suggests this is a public relations exercise more than it is a serious attempt to clean up the game.