OTTAWA (AP) -Chris Pronger single-handedly set the NHL general managers' meeting agenda, making blows to the head the primary topic discussed Monday.
A day after the Anaheim defenseman got a one-game suspension for an elbow to the head that knocked out Ottawa's Dean McAmmond, the general managers reached a consensus - but no resolution - in an attempt to eliminate such checks to players in defenseless positions.
``There's going to be an attempt to draft some type of rule about a hit directly to the head,'' Ducks GM Brian Burke said. ``My prediction is it's going to be hard to draft it, but I think we owe it to our players to try.''
Added Sabres GM Darcy Regier: ``For me, for our organization, I think it's a step in the right direction.''
and bloodied Sabres co-captain Chris Drury.
Pronger's hit particularly spurred the discussion, considering it happened Saturday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. It was Pronger's second suspension this postseason - he was banned one game for a high hit that bloodied Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom in the Western Conference finals.
``This is positive. We've gone from not even considering it previously, to having extensive debate,'' Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe said.
Then came the hard part: determining what would constitute an illegal hit. That sparked a lengthy debate which led to the meeting running until 5 p.m., an hour past it's scheduled completion.
``It's going to need more refining now that we've narrowed it down a little bit to what we want,'' Washington Capitals GM George McPhee said.
Burke, for example, was worried whether a potential rule would go too far in taking hitting out of hockey.
After watching video of Neil's hit on Drury, Burke said: ``It was an excellent hit. We can't take that hit out of our game. ... That's a North American NHL hit.''
Burke drew the line on penalizing hits in which no other part of the body but the head is struck.
Regier disagreed, saying he would push to outlaw Neil's hit, noting the player lowered his shoulder and struck Drury across the side and jaw.
``I think there's tremendous room to address hits to the head and still have hitting to the game,'' Regier said. ``I think it's a natural progression for us. I think the question is how much you open or close that valve.''
The issue will be sent to the NHL's competition committee and to its players for further discussion. And the league will study what other leagues, such as the junior Ontario Hockey League, have done to eliminate blows to the head.
The general managers touched on other topics, but reached no resolutions on:
- Expanding the size of nets to increase goal-scoring;
- Reducing the length of minor penalties called in regular-season overtime from two minutes to one so not to extensively punish teams during the five-minute period;
- Going to a four-on-four skater format during playoff overtimes, as teams do in the regular season, in an attempt to cut down on multiple-overtime games.
Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis was against dropping a fifth skater, even though his team played the sixth-longest game in playoff history in April, needing four overtimes to beat Dallas in a first-round series.
``I personally don't mind it,'' Nonis said of the length of the game, saying fans considered it one of the most memorable games of the playoffs.

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