Hotdog Hockey: A call for the NHL to adopt a Hybrid Icing Rule

Posted by Kyle Kosior in Hotdog Hockey Column on November 9, 2009 — 3 Comments

This week over at Hot Dog Hockey, I had the chance to provide my E-Take on the need for the NHL to adopt a hybrid icing rule.

Here is an excerpt:

While much of the recent news surrounding the NHL and proposed rule changes has centred on the seemingly nightly shots to the head and subsequent injuries, it seems like there is still room for a renewed call to change the icing rules.  Let me be the first to get back on that bandwagon.

The current “touch” icing rule still has its benefits, namely the opportunity for the offensive team to beat the defending team to the puck and create some offense.  However, this risk far outweighs the reward here and there are simply too many instances of defensemen (Kurtis Foster) and forwards (Pat Peake, Patrice Bergeron) getting injured on these plays to justify the continued existence of touch icing.  A race for the puck is great, but a race that ends inches before a solid wall is just foolhardy.  Consider the case of Pat Peake, who shattered his heel when he crashed into the boards chasing down an icing.  The promising junior star played only a handful of games in the NHL as the result of that injury, effectively a career-ender.

Read the entire article here.

March 13, 2012 edit: It appears that the Hotdog Hockey website is down permanently, thankfully, I have gone to archive.org and retrieved Kyle’s post. Read below

While much of the recent news surrounding the NHL and proposed rule changes has centred on the seemingly nightly shots to the head and subsequent injuries, it seems like there is still room for a renewed call to change the icing rules.  Let me be the first to get back on that bandwagon.

The current “touch” icing rule still has its benefits, namely the opportunity for the offensive team to beat the defending team to the puck and create some offense.  However, this risk far outweighs the reward here and there are simply too many instances of defensemen (Kurtis Foster) and forwards (Pat Peake, Patrice Bergeron) getting injured on these plays to justify the continued existence of touch icing.  A race for the puck is great, but a race that ends inches before a solid wall is just foolhardy.  Consider the case of Pat Peake, who shattered his heel when he crashed into the boards chasing down an icing.  The promising junior star played only a handful of games in the NHL as the result of that injury, effectively a career-ender.

That being said, I do not believe that going to the international “no-touch” icing is the way to go either.  Though I, for one, do not buy the notion that it slows the game down, the rule doesn’t provide much excitement (I am sure the league wants to keep the fans coming) and in very rare instances it can negate a scoring chance.  For my money, the system devised by Scott Brand, the United States Hockey League’s Director of Hockey Operations, is the best of both worlds.

This hybrid icing rule, being used in both the United States Hockey League and the Southern Professional Hockey League, offers the safety of no-touch icing and the excitement of touch icing.  Here’s how it works: First, all the basic conditions for an icing call must be met (even strength, puck shot by the defensive team from the defensive zone, no attempt by the goalie to play the puck, etc.).  Second, the leading linesman imagines an imaginary line drawn between the two end-zone face offs dots, parallel to the goal line.  The linesman must simply determine who is winning the race for the puck at this line (a safe distance from the end boards) and either blow the icing call or waive it off.  If the linesman cannot determine who will win the race or it’s a clear tie, the icing will be called as the tie goes to the defender.

As a point of considering, I realize that rule doesn’t automatically prohibit injuries from occurring.  The players can still get tangled up and fall into the boards or get otherwise injured, but this hybrid system does serve to drastically reduce the instances where two (or more) big bodies are hurtling at top speed right up to the boards.  The hybrid rule at least allows a sizeable buffer zone where both parties should be able to stop if not at least slow down significantly.  If nothing else it would (and does) reduce the catastrophic injuries (broken legs, shattered heels, etc.) that you see with the touch icing rule as employed by the NHL.

There seems to be a clear consensus from fans and players alike that it is time to do away with touch icing.  The NHLPA (and many of its’ players), hockey heavyweight Don Cherry, journalists such as Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, bloggers like James Mirtle and even a Facebook group all advocate for a change.  The NHL, notoriously slow to adopt anything new, is not likely to abandon its glacial pace of change when it comes to icing.  So, how does this rule get changed?  This writer thinks the icing change will come when the NHL has finally dealt with head shots, the aforementioned cause du jour for the league.  When a head shots rule is added, the chattering classes will move on to icing when, not if, another player is hurt chasing a puck down and the call for change will be loud enough to convince the NHL to move.

To me, there are very few downsides to this rule.  It provides no real added work or interpretation to the linesmen (other than imagining a line), the players are basically operating under the same touch icing rule they would use should they make it to the NHL and the fans still get the excitement of the race for the puck.  All of this, plus a reduced risk of injury for both forward and defenseman combine to make Brand’s hybrid rule a sure winner.  Right?  Let’s hope so.

Written by Kyle Kosior kyle@illegalcurve.com.

  • Jarick

    The only problem I see is that if the offensive player is “winning” the race, you have the same exact issue, two players with a full head of steam flying into the boards.

  • http://www.illegalcurve.com rusty

    Jarick, I see your point and acknowledge in the post. The difference here is that there is a lot more room to stop in case of an emergency. It might not always help, but it least it gives the players a sizable cushion.

  • http://www.illegalcurve.com dave

    I’d be curious to see what the numbers are for the amount of times beating an icing has led to a goal being scored. Offhand I can’t think of any critical times this has happened, although I’m sure there have been some.

    Really great article Kyle.