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Hybrid or no-touch icing or bust: The NHL’s time for change is now

Oct 1, 2011, 2:14 PM EDT

Taylor Fedun, Jordan Eberle AP

After Edmonton prospect Taylor Fedun broke his fibula taking a spill into the boards in a race for the puck with Minnesota’s Eric Nystrom, the tide of public opinion is changing. TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted that it was time to change the methodology. His wasn’t the only opinion going that way either.

Our question here is: Why did it take seeing Fedun breaking his leg in a most grotesque way to change people’s minds on this?

I wrote here during RDO camp this summer how adding either no-touch or hybrid icing was a change that made a world of sense and that it wouldn’t change the fabric of the game. After seeing it used in college hockey last year, hybrid icing makes most sense for those coaches and GMs that fear losing “the race” aspect of icing will make the game “boring” if no-touch icing was the way to go.

Brian Burke supports hybrid or no-touch icing while guys like Edmonton’s own Steve Tambellini didn’t want to lose the speed aspect of the game. Perhaps seeing one of his own players have his season likely ended and his development put on hold for up to a year will change his mind. When something affects you directly your opinion can change fast.

Does it matter whether we see no-touch or hybrid icing though? Is having that race to the end boards worth having another freak accident or, worse yet, seeing a player’s malicious competitive edge come out to win a battle for the puck? Absolutely not.

After seeing Fedun’s injury last night and thinking back to Kurtis Foster, then of the Wild, having the same thing happen to him in a race for an icing call, it’s nonsensical to keep a race for the puck to get an icing call in the game. Icing is what it is and while it’s an important call in regard to where faceoffs occur and puck possession in the zone, it’s not so important we need to run the risk of players getting grossly injured to get the call.

Hockey is a rough and tumble sport as it is without adding this human NASCAR side-show to the festivities. Brendan Shanahan’s job as the head of player safety for the league has to be looking at what happened to Fedun and feeling sick about it. Changes to icing is something the league has looked at now for two years. The time for testing is over, the time for change is upon us.

  1. stakex - Oct 1, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    This is such a joke. MAYBE one or two guys a year get hurt due to the current iceing rules…. MAYBE. Guys also get hit with pucks and hurt. Guys also get hit in the face with sticks and get hurt. Guys also get hurt from perfectly clean checks. Guys also blow tires and land funny causing injury. Should we start usingt foam pucks, nerf sticks, remove all contact, and start playing in sneakers? I mean hell, if the whole point is to remove every freak accident that can possibly happen…. why not ban the sport of hockey all together?

    Seriouslly, this Pansification of hockey has to stop. The sport was just fine for decades… and there was no need for most of the changes that have taken place over the last 10 years. I’m all for making things safer with better equipment and banning out right headshots… but freak accidents are going to happen no matter what, and there is no need for knee jerk reactions to them. I can think of a dozen other situations during a game in which a race to the puck can result in a freak accident… so we ban the race to the puck altogether? Perhaps make it a penelty to get too compedative?

    Give it up. If your not tough enough to play hockey… don’t play it. If you don’t play it, shut the hell up and watch…. or don’t watch if the semi-dangerous nature of hockey is too much for you. Either way, stop changing the damn sport to something that hardly resembles the game it once was.

  2. Eric - Oct 1, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Stakex – I don’t think it’s about being tough or not knowing the risks in playing any sport. It is instead about statistics. How many close plays are there truly created by touch icing? How many result in a scoring opportunity? How many result in injury? It just doesn’t equate to enough entertainment value for a fan to make sense to keep.

    A typical game might have 60-80 shots, with 5-10 games a night we are looking at thousands of shots in a week. How many weeks are we reporting a guy out for the year due to a shot from a puck? As far as sticks, they can be dangerous, and dangerous stick plays are penalized accordingly. Fighting can also be debated, but in that case it is typically 2 willing and able participants that are experienced in fighting and are able to reduce the serious risks. Again, how often do we report of guys being out for the season due to a fight in comparison to the number of fights each week?

    I know we want to make sure the game remains “tough” … but touch icing just has no place statistically. It also doesn’t even show the tough part of the game. You can’t check a guy until he has the puck anyway…

    The time for this rule to go was when Foster lost an entire year. Why we waited for another incident…well, lets just change it, and do it right now, this season.

    • balewsquare - Oct 1, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      Well said.

    • finfan88shark - Oct 1, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      After 1 injury we need to coddle players now. How many icings were there last year, and how many injuries were there? What is next plastic pucks, and sticks. Let’s face it more players lost teeth and had injuries from being struck by sticks and pucks then were hurt on icing calls. You mentioned ONE PLAYER for an entire year that got hurt on 1000s of icing calls. Based on that I think we need to ban cars because they are more dangerous for players to drive then touch icing.

      • Eric - Oct 1, 2011 at 4:56 PM

        Losing a tooth won’t end your career. Believe me, I lost one as a ref, it happens.

        You are missing the point, how often is there a close play like this play on an icing call. I’d bet less than 50 a year. Yet in 5 years, we’ve had 2 guys lose a whole year of their career. Clutterbuck throws 30 checks per game…I don’t think anyone has lost a year of playing due to that. Sure guys can get hurt from a check, but the ratio is much lower…10000s of checks per 1 injury versus 100 close icings per injury. If a driver per year got seriously hurt in NASCAR, do you think they’d change the rules?

        Go ahead, watch sweaty, half-naked men wrestle in a cage. I’ll stick with hockey.

    • stakex - Oct 1, 2011 at 9:34 PM

      Dude, stop pulling numbers out of your ass…. it just makes you look like an idiot.

      The injury rate for clean checks is no where near as low as 1 per 10,000 checks. Just like the injury rate on icings in no where near 1 injury per 100 icings. I have no clue where you got those numbers (your head, to prove your point probably) but they are total BS. Even without having actually numbers in front of me, I can prove those numbers wrong with a few simple facts:

      1. There are probably over 100 icings in a standard NHL day…. probably more on nights with a lot of games. For your numbers to be true, that would mean someone would have to be hurt on an icing play EVERY NIGHT. The reality is, it happens MAYBE a couple times a year…. meaning the number is far higher then 1 in 100.

      2. Only one guy gets hurt per 10,000 checks? Wow. Generally a team will average between 1500 and 2000 checks PER YEAR. Even if every team hit the high end of that (they don’t) that would be 60,000 checks a year in the NHL (again, probably more like 45,000-55,000)…. which by your calculation would mean only SIX guys a year get hurt by checks. You know what that means? Your numbers are total BS.

      So there it is. Stop lying about stats just to try and prove a point. The fact is the number of guys hurt due to the current icing rule is VERY small… and no statistics make it seem like a great idea to change the rule (unless you make them up, like you did). Besides, your not going to stop races for the puck by changing the rules since they happen all the time when its NOT icing.

      As for your laughable NASCAR comparision I have no idea how that makes any sense. A lot of guys get hurt in the NHL a year…. and only a fraction of them get hurt because of the icing rule (if any at all… I can think of 2 in the last 5 years). You continue to make it sound like something that happens weekly, and its not. Again, if your all about doing everything to prevent injury… why not ban fighting, checking, and slapshots (Ian Laperrière lost his CAREER to a slapshot)? All three cause far more injuries then the icing rules…. despite your BS stats to try and say otherwise.

      • Eric - Oct 2, 2011 at 12:41 AM

        Yes, I was just estimating the numbers in my head. But so are you in your post. Yes there are many icings per game, but my number was based on the idea of how many are actually these type of foot races that lead to injury potential. Very few icing calls actually have two guys racing in close proximity.

        And also, I’m not saying guys don’t get hurt on checks…but look back at my post again please…I am saying in reference to a serious injury (we now have 2 femur breaks because of icing). If someone gets injured due to a clean check, what is the typical injury time? A couple weeks? It isn’t very often you see a guy missing a whole season on a typical hockey play. We now have 2 guys that will miss a year (or more) because of a dangerous icing rule that only the NHL has insisted on keeping.

        So this will be paragraph 3 where I will try to make my point to you – it isn’t that other hockey plays are not dangerous, nor am I advocating we nerf the entire sport. I am saying that this play is particularly dangerous and doesn’t lead to much in the way of scoring chances or entertainment value. In fact, the ensuing face off could take place faster if the icing could be called right away, and with the line change rules the face off would bring about more scoring chances on the other end.

        This is paragraph 4 where I will try to make my point – my NASCAR comparison is just a way to show that when statistics start to add up, it is time to make changes. Sure, there are 30 icings a game, but there might only be 30 a year that have this type of scenario. And to me, when so few instances (where there is a legitimate foot race for the puck) and so many injuries of such seriousness, it is called a high ratio. It is too high for many people and we want it changed.

        I’ll tell you what, most of what I’ve read including players and others in hockey have been weighing in and have said it is time for this rule to go. As far as I know, most leagues don’t have touch icing (every league I ref is all goal line crossing). So if you don’t like that rule, go watch UFC, stop commenting on this board, cancel Center Ice, and we we both enjoy our respective sports better.

  3. finfan88shark - Oct 1, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Have to agree with stakex here. The NHL under new disciplinarian Brendan Shannhan is becoming like the NFL. What is next banning checking all together in hockey. It is almost impossible to check or hit anyone now without some kind of penalty or controversy, and it is only going to get worse if the Liberals have there way. Lets ban hitting because someone might get hurt, next it will be rubber pucks and plastic sticks. Leave the great game of hockey alone, it is fine the way it was two or three years ago. Keep the physical part of the game in, keep fighting in, and eliminate all the stupid new rules trying to be put into the sport. Hockey will be boring if you take away hitting, and the excitement of touch icing. Why change the game based on 2 or 3 injuries in 2 years. More players are hurt being hit with sticks and pucks then being hit on icing. What the game does not need is more changes and more rules. What the game needs is PROPER enforcement of current rules before more rules are implemented. Boarding, Kneeing, and Charging penalties need to be enforced more often, and in turn that would decrease injuries while keeping checking in the game. The more rules you have, the more bad calls you will get from officials who are already overburdened by two many penalty calls. Take checking and fighting out of the game, and I m done as a fan of hockey. If the NHL wants to market and keep the game strong, maybe they need to see which sports are popular and why. Maybe they need to see and know why sports such as UFC, and WWE are so popular and growing by leaps and bounds.

  4. kingjoe1 - Oct 2, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    While I generally dislike changes in sports that lessen hitting etc, this is a easy decision. No ice touching doenst take anything of value out of the game and increases safety.

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