NHL linesmen have been instructed to stop a fight when the participants opt to remove their helmets prior to swapping blows.
This isn't a rule change, simply a common sense approach to encourage players to protect their head at all times.
There is nothing formal about this strategy. It was implemented shortly after the preseason where it became evident players weren't concerned about the additional two-minute penalty for removing their helmets to fight...even though the rule was introduced entirely for player safety.
Linesmen now have the authority to step in, when it is safe to do so, and stop a fight when the combatants purposely take off their helmets.
The first clear example of this occured Tuesday night in Montreal when linesmen Steve Barton and Michel Cormier stepped in between Montreal's Travis Moen and Edmonton's Luke Gazdic seconds after they dumped their helmets to scrap.
Both players received unsportsmanlike minors rather than fighting majors.
Good communication between the two officials in Montreal allowed them to act quickly, however, this type of interruption will be handled on a case-by-case basis, meaning there will be fights where it's either unsafe for the officials to intervene, or timing won't allow it.
The league's officiating department is hoping the buzz created by their actions at the Bell Centre will discourage other players from continuing to intentionally break a rule.