NHL releases video to explain avoidable and unavoidable head contact

Brian Dumoulin is left wobbly after a collision with Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin. Dumoulin would exit the game shortly afterwards.

A major storyline throughout the first month of the NHL playoffs has been a reignited debate about what qualifies as an illegal check to the head.

After the latest example, in Sunday’s Game 2 between the Capitals and Penguins, the NHL has released a video explaining Rule 48.1, which is how the Department of Player Safety determines if a hit was avoidable or not.

In the video, the Department of Player Safety cites four recent hits, including Sunday’s hit by Tom Wilson on Brian Dumoulin, which you can watch in the video above. All four plays show situations where head contact was unavoidable, and therefore no suspension was awarded.

Rule 48.1 outlines three ways head contact can be deemed unavoidable.

• Whether the player attempted to hit squarely though the opponent’s body and the head was not picked as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.

• Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.

• Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.

On Wilson’s hit on Dumoulin, the NHL determined “the head contact in this case was unavoidable due to the sudden movements just prior to contact by Duomoulin.”

Monday’s new video is the second in a series explaining the illegal check to the head rule. On April 20, the NHL released a video explaining how it determines whether a player’s head was the main point of contact on a hit.


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