Hockey Canada has introduced new rules to curb head shots at all levels of the game under its jurisdiction.
Delegates from across the country voted Saturday at the national governing body's annual general meeting in Calgary to approve "zero tolerance measures for all head contact or checks in minor, female, junior and senior hockey," according to a release.
The new rules call for a minor penalty to be assessed for "all accidental hits to the head" in minor and female hockey. For intentional contact to the head, a double minor or a major and a game misconduct may be levied at the discretion of the referee based on "the degree of violence of impact."
At the junior and senior levels, a minor and a misconduct or a major and a game misconduct may be assessed for any check to the head at the discretion of the referee, while a major penalty and a game misconduct can be assessed to any player who injures an opponent with a check to the head.
Head shots became a hot topic in the hockey world this season as several high-profile players missed time due to concussions. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby was hit in the head by Washington's David Steckel on New Year's Day and played just one more game before sitting out the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara sparked a furor in March when he checked Montreal's Max Pacioretty into a rinkside stanchion, knocking Pacioretty unconscious and ending his season.
The National Hockey League instituted a rule last year making blindside lateral hits to the head illegal, but has declined to altogether ban head shots. A five-point plan for dealing with head injuries, including changes to the protocol for handling concussions, was announced by commissioner Gary Bettman at a meeting of the league's general managers in March.