Bettman says players learning how to hit safely

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm •  Published: December 10, 2013

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he believes players are learning how to hit and check without violating the league's new safety rules.

Bettman spoke Tuesday after vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan gave his address on the final day of the Board of Governors meeting.

Shanahan handed out a two-game suspension earlier in the day to Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf for his hit from behind on Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Shanahan gave Pittsburgh forward James Neal a five-game suspension earlier in the week for kneeing Boston forward Brad Marchand and scheduled an in-person hearing for later this week with Bruins forward Shawn Thornton for grabbing Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik from behind, throwing him to the ice and punching him.

Bettman said the league has been proactive about eliminating dangerous hits to the head, and only about 50-100 of the approximately 55,000 hits in a season are problematic.

"I believe the sense of the room is that Brendan Shanahan and the department of player safety has the confidence of the board of governors. He certainly has my confidence," Bettman said. "It's about modifying an element of the game's culture and we think we've made positive, dramatic steps forward."

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