Helmets On: NHL GMs focus on player safety, pace of play at meetings

NHL players minus their helmets, hair flapping in the breeze as they attempt to rejoin the action, could soon be a thing of the past.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — NHL players minus their helmets, hair flapping in the breeze as they attempt to rejoin the action, could soon be a thing of the past.

The league's general managers announced Tuesday at their meetings in Florida that a new rule has been drafted that would force skaters to immediately head to the bench when they lose the protective gear.

A player is currently allowed to stay on the ice if he loses his helmet.

Under the proposed change, which still has to go to the NHL/NHLPA competition committee and then the board of governors for final approval, a helmet-less skater would be assessed a two-minute penalty if he fails to immediately leave the ice.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has the same rule for its games, while the American Hockey League allows a player to remain on the ice if he's able to put his helmet back on.

The GMs are also in favour of making helmets mandatory in pre-game warmups, but that's not part of this rule change.

Meanwhile, GMs appear ready to allow a team heading onto a power play to pick which side of the ice the ensuing offensive zone faceoff will occur immediately after a penalty is called.

One other change that seems likely is clocks being installed in the boards at all 31 arenas, much like the ones used at the league's outdoor games.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press