General managers push for tougher penalties for head hits

By Steve Keating

With Boston and Vancouver about to faceoff in Game Four of the Stanley Cup finals the debate was once again in the spotlight after the Bruins Nathan Horton was knocked cold by a late hit from the Canucks Aaron Rome in Game Three.

Horton was taken to hospital with a severe concussion while Rome received a four game ban, a record suspension for a Stanley Cup final.

General managers were vague on exactly what type of hits would be included in the recommendations that will now go to the competition committee approval and then to the NHL board of governors.

"It's not quite that far but it's more than we have right now."

The debate has hung over the NHL all-season and carried over into the playoffs as the list of concussion victims continued to grow.

While the league has recognized the need to better protect players, it has been equally determined not to remove the physical component of the game, which is considered to be at the sport's soul.

"The tightrope we walk is, this is a full contact sport," said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. "It's been a full contact sport since we opened our doors for business.

"It's one of the distinctive features of what we do and we don't want to change that.

"We want to eliminate the really dangerous parts of the play but this is a game where you are going to get hit and there are going to be injuries.

"You've got to start with that basic understanding, that it's a full contact sport and we cannot lose that part of the fabric of our game."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)