April 4, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) carries the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Lightning defeat the Hurricanes 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Hybrid Icing: What Is It and Will It Positively Affect Player Safety?

Last week, the NHL General Managers met to discuss recommendations from the NHL Competition Committee that, if approved, would take effect in the 2013-14 season. After being approved by the GMs, the vote moves to the NHL Board of Governors.Later today, the NHL Board of Governors are expected to meet to discuss these very same issues.

One of the most highly discussed recommendations is the implementation of Hybrid Icing. The question of the day is: What exactly is Hybrid Icing, and will it positively affect player safety?

Hybrid Icing is much like traditional touch-based icing; however, it puts the decision squarely in the hands of the linesman. Under the current definition of icing, the official rule is as follows:

Rule 81 – Icing: For the purpose of interpretation of the rule, “icing the puck” is completed the instant the puck is touched first by a defending player (other than the goalkeeper) after it has crossed the goal line and if in the action of so touching the puck, it is knocked or deflected into the net, it is no goal.

Hybrid Icing, or Attainable Touch Icing, has been used for years by the NCAA and various minor North American Leagues. According to the Official USA Hockey Rulebook, the definition of Attainable Touch Icing is as follows:

Rule 620 – Icing: For the purpose of interpretation of this rule, “Icing the Puck” is completed the instant the puck crosses the goal line, unless an attacking player, who is onside at the blue line and with no opponent between him and the goal line and who is clearly in position to be the first player to touch the puck, icing shall not be called. This decision by the Official shall be made no later than the first player reaching the end zone face-off dots. If the puck enters the goal in this situation “icing” shall not be called and a goal shall be awarded.

Both of these rules are similar in nature; however, with Hybrid Icing, a player’s stick does not have to make contact with the puck in order for icing to be called. The linesman would have the authority make that decision as soon as the puck crosses the goal line, and a player reaches the end zone face-off dots. This rule was implemented with the intention of decreasing unnecessary and potentially dangerous, high speed contact between players.

In a video, which can be seen below, USA Hockey gives you examples of the rule in practice during real on-ice play. Video is courtesy of USA Hockey.

 

As usual, there are two sides to every story. There are people who will argue that placing the decision to the discretion of the linesman leaves decisions up for interpretation and will make these calls more likely to be questioned by an offending team. However, if implemented properly, this could significantly lessen the amount of injuries sustained during unnecessary contact between players rushing to play the puck.

Others will argue that the implementation of this rule will eliminate competition and a player’s drive to play the puck. I disagree with this based on the fact that the determination of icing cannot be made until either an offending or defending player passes the end zone face-off dots.

I think that the implementation of this rule could viably serve to reduce the amount of injuries sustained by unnecessary contact in the name of playing the puck.

I think once [the players] are used to it they’ll like it because the race for the puck is still there,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said. “The concern about going to automatic icing is that the race for the puck is totally eliminated. In this situation the race for the puck is not eliminated at all. That’s still an important part of the game.” ~ via NHL.com

The NHL will experiment with the new Hybrid Icing during the 2013-14 preseason. Before the end of the preseason, the NHLPA will vote on whether or not they want to make the rule official.

What do you think of the new Hybrid Icing? Do you think it will viably reduce player injuries? Furthermore, do you think this is something that the players will be inclined to adopt? Sound off in the comments below and let us know!

 

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