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Fight etiquette, player safety among hot topics as GMs meet

Fight etiquette, player safety among hot topics as GMs meet

MANALAPAN, Fla. — The NHL GM meetings moved into their second day Tuesday, and discussions deepened around key agenda topics with potential to impact rule changes down the road.

Managers spent Monday morning in breakout sessions dialoguing about fights after clean hits, the implications of expanded video review on coaches’ challenges and increasing protective equipment on players. The entire GM contingency met together Tuesday to share in more dialogue that, while productive, still has further to go.

“I don’t know that we left with any real consensus on things,” said Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, speaking after the day’s sessions ended at Eau Palm Beach resort. “I think a lot of the managers are in favor of wanting to make sure you get things right with video review and stuff like that, but I think we have to be very, very conscious about the unintended consequences of those kinds of things. There’s going to be some deeper dives into a lot of the points that we discussed. Hockey operations gauges the temperature of that and if there’s good appetite [to talk more], then they continue to work on it. And I think that’s where we left it.”

One touchpoint that drew attention before the meetings was how to best police retaliatory fights after clean hits. New York Rangers captain Jacob Trouba is just one example of a player who has delivered proper — if painful — strikes on the ice and then been forced into defending himself from the target’s teammate in an ensuing scrum.

Although it’s often hits against star players that draw the most ire from fans and coverage by the media, the GMs’ expanded conversation this week went beyond how to protect everyone on the ice, not just top-tier skaters. The other implication with fights and hits in general is how they’re interpreted in a broader sense, something GMs and players alike are sensitive to.

“It’s a real tough one to discuss,” said Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. “Because, if there’s a clean hit against anyone on your team and your team doesn’t do anything about it, you get heavily criticized for it. If you do do something about it, you take a penalty, and you get criticized for that. I think people use your reaction to clean hits to judge whether your team is tough or not. And that’s the hard part is we can talk about the rules and everything, but there’s also the noise that comes after because people are looking for indicators of what your team is about.”

And it’s not as if GMs were…

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