After rehashing the subject yesterday, the NHL still has no plans to implement stricter rules on hits to the head.

“I’m not running for office here — I don’t care if people agree with what I say. I’m telling you, there were 30 GMs in that room and there’s no appetite for an automatic penalty (for a head check),” said Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke after he emerged from a meeting of general managers and presidents in Toronto.

The topic of head shots was, apparently, one of the more interesting discussions during the day-long gathering. And while the players are expected to push for a penalty for head checking when the competition committee meets this summer, Burke said the “existing penalties make sense” and are liked by managers.

“At some point, a player has a responsibility for keeping his head up, too,” said Burke. “There’s only two sports where there’s no safe haven, where you can step out of bounds and be safe. That’s mixed martial arts and hockey. There’s a reason for that. It’s supposed to be a tough physical game, and part of that is you’ve got to protect yourself. You have to avoid putting yourself in vulnerable positions.

“In the leagues where they’ve put in an automatic penalty, I think it’s dramatically reduced hitting. We have no desire to reduce the amount of contact that takes place on our ice surface.”

Though less sensational, the league also yesterday approved a Burke initiative — something for which he says he has been pushing since 1994 — to create an award for GM of the year. Details have yet to be worked out, but it should be presented for the first time at the end of next season.

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