On Friday afternoon, a day before the Flyers played in Montreal and more than 24 hours before Alexei Kovalev's hit on Simon Gagne, a memo was posted in locker rooms around the league that said the NHL would be cracking down on head shots.

"Recently, we have had two supplemental discipline incidents involving direct elbow blows to the head," the memo from league disciplinarian Colin Campbell read.

"This is a play that we have been trying to remove from our game for a number of years. In one case there was no injury and in the other incident, the elbowed player received a concussion. Both players delivering the elbows had never before been involved in supplemental discipline.

"We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal," the memo read.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren saw the memo, as did every other GM in the league and most players, and agreed with the position.

But when it came to Kovalev's hit on Gagne, a late shoulder hit to the head, Holmgren agreed with the league's position that it was not the kind of hit they were referring to.

Holmgren said he didn't see the hit until Sunday night, when the Flyers played Atlanta at the Wachovia Center.

"I talked to Colin Campbell just because when I talked to [coach John Stevens] after the game, he told me that Simon was upset," Holmgren said. "So I called [Campbell], we talked and they looked at it, and in their opinion, it was not a bad hit.

"I think he said it was a little bit late, but it was one of those things," Holmgren said. "And because of the player - it's Kovalev, he's not that kind of player - and in this case, he doesn't have time to react one way or the other.

"It was not an elbow," Holmgren said. "I have a lot of trouble calling that a head shot."

The play came just after Gagne had the puck and had dumped it up the boards. He was without possession when Kovalev came in, shoulder high, and hit Gagne in the face, snapping Gagne's head and dropping him to the ice.

Gagne was stunned and the hit left two bruises on his face. It left him shaken and worried about how he would feel when he woke up Sunday. Gagne played only 25 games last season due to the prolonged effects of two concussions.

He was upset and spoke out Sunday after the win against Atlanta.

"We have to do something to stop these hits," Gagne said after the game. "And right now I'm ready to be that guy. I'll talk to the league, to anybody.

"He hit me pretty hard right to the head, and after what happened last year I was concerned. Until I was going to play [Sunday], I didn't know what to expect. I was nervous coming here."

Gagne spoke to Holmgren and told him this was something the players would have to change themselves. It was not something that would come from the league or the general managers. Holmgren is in favor of trying to eliminate intentional blows to the head, but said he believes it is very hard to do.

The game is played at high speed and there is not much time to react in some situations. He does believe that Kovalev came in late, Gagne had already gotten rid of the puck. But he can also understand that Kovalev might have already had his course set and didn't have enough time to react.

"I think the league is doing the right thing by sending out that memo and putting people on notice, but I have a hard time calling Kovalev's hit on Gagne a head shot," Holmgren said. *