The National Hockey League season is upon us and the NHLPA and NHL head brass have gone ahead and approved the newest of rules, hybrid icing. Over the years NHL defenseman have asked the NHL to take out touch icing. Over the years we have seen numerous players almost have their careers ended because of the touch format, just ask Kurtis Foster, Taylor Fedun or Joni Pitkanen (pictured above) their opinions on the subject.
The new hybrid icing puts defenseman in a better situation. The new rule sees NHL linesman making a judgement call to an “imaginary line” on the ice. If the defenseman gets across the line first, icing is called. If the attacking forward is first across the line, the race is on for the puck and play continues.
But the conversation must be about the forwards safety now, rather than the defenseman’s. In the situation if a forward is beating a d-man to the puck that has been iced, the play is supposed to go on. Let’s just say a smooth skating defenseman is on your tail and closing fast, now the opportunity to plaster said forward is evident. Collisions will happen and forwards, instead of defenseman, will get hurt.
The point is a race is a race, bad ice can happen at any time for any player to catch a rut and fall head first into the end boards.
Not only is player safety still an issue with the new icing rule, the “split-second” judgement call by a linesman is another concern for controversy. Referees are in the game to make the tough calls, fans dislike them, some player as well. The normal NHL linesman of years past has been out of the spotlight as “just an official” with referees being the number one target.
Now, with the new icing rule linesman are put on the spot to make the right call and keep players safe. With the way the NHL is going, speed and skill is number one on any team. The pace of the game has increased and players are stronger and faster. To be able to make this split second decision lots of factors have to come into play, the position of the linesman, the angle he is on, the position of the players, the players skate position at the imaginary line and many others. This list alone is a mouthful for anyone to comprehend, especially when someone is skating at 20 mph.
It might be safe to say that the rule is in the best interest of player safety, but it seems the only players they are protecting are the defenseman — finally — but now the forwards are at risk for injury and linesman are in the spotlight for criticism. With players now in the league at 18 or 19 years old, can we afford to have a potential young superstar get caught on the wrong side of this rule? These young players grow up with the no touch icing, why can’t the NHL adapt the same? The pace of the game will increase and players will not get hurt, period.
If the NHL thinks they will lose fans because of no touch icing, they are mistaken — any hockey fans does not want to see a player get hurt. The new rule gives television “panels” something to talk about, but still does not protect the players to the full extent.
Hybrid icing is a move in the right direction but as we watch the 2013-2014 season, the door for injury is still open.
Photo credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports