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The Icing Conundrum

Jonathan Willis talks about why he thinks the NHL should adopt a hybrid icing rule:

The difference between hybrid icing and regular icing is a small one. The only change is that under the hybrid rule, in situations where it is apparent by the defensive zone faceoff dots that a player from the team that iced the puck will not arrive quickly enough to nullify the icing, an icing call is assumed and the linesman blows the play dead.

It sounds like a small shift, but it is a substantive one. Under the new rule, when two players are racing for the puck, if the guy trying to nullify the icing can’t catch up the play ends; this prevents the skater who can’t catch up from slamming into the guy who reaches the puck first at the end boards. It also prevents the player who would reach the puck first from crashing into the boards at full speed in his haste to gain an advantage for his team.

The AHL experimented with hybrid icing during the first half of the season.  Interestingly enough, league officials decided to ditch the concept once the lockout ended so players recalled to and sent down from the NHL could play under the same set of rules.

As someone who's watched almost 20 AHL games this year, I just don't see how hybrid icing enhances player safety.  As Willis explains, the play is whistled dead only in situations where an icing call is obvious.  However, if a retreating defender and a pursuing forechecker are neck and neck at the faceoff circle, the play is allowed to continue.  With two players racing for an iced puck, the potential for devastating injury remains. 

Willis is correct when he says hybrid icing speeds up the game, but that's the only benefit of the rule.  The fact of the matter is adopting automatic icing is the only way to prevent serious injuries.  Considering the number of players who've had their careers ended prematurely on such meaningless plays, it's shocking that pro hockey leagues across the continent have maintained the current icing standard.

Many people believe a close race for an iced puck is an exciting part of the game.  Indeed, the negation of an icing can sometimes lead to an immediate scoring chance.  But the risk is simply too great.  One nullified icing per game isn't worth a single broken leg all season. 

If the NHL is serious about player safety, it can no longer ignore the icing conundrum.  And when it comes down to it, hybrid icing doesn't get the job done. 

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Comments

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I hate no-touch icing. I’d rather they word the hybrid icing rule better than create automatic whistles when the attacking player has a clear advantage to getting to a puck first.

Add the term “clear advantage” and make it a wave-off at the dots (this ends the stupid technicality of having to touch the puck first, which causes sticks to get jammed up under people’s skates in dangerous spots)

If the defender gets there first… whistle it down.
If the race is tight….whistle it down
If the attacker is far enough ahead of the defender at the dot… wave off the icing and force them to play it like a board battle. 
If the defender takes a bad angle and the puck rims around the boards to where an attacker will get to it first, let the play continue.

I would leave the definition of “clear advantage” more subjective, but I think my personal definition for it is when the attacker is far enough ahead of the defender that the latter can’t reach out and put his hand on the lower back of the former.  Waving off the icing gives them enough time from the dot to make a play/counter-play without the goofiness of jamming sticks in or trying to push guys. 

You might still get plays where guys end up getting hurt, but with the decision-at-the-dots, those plays should only happen when the defender has done something which should earn him a suspension or the attacker has done something equally as stupid (short-stopping on a guy to put himself into “board-me” position)

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/21/13 at 08:58 AM ET

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Joe, you have a twitter account?

Posted by rjman48 from Royal Oak on 01/21/13 at 09:24 AM ET

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What’s the difference between no-touch icing and hybrid icing?

Posted by rjman48 from Royal Oak on 01/21/13 at 09:44 AM ET

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.