TORONTO – The debate over no-touch icing was rekindled Thursday after the gruesome injury sustained by Minnesota Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster the previous night.
Foster had surgery Thursday to repair a broken left leg. The blue-liner collided with San Jose Sharks rookie forward Torrey Mitchell on an icing play Wednesday night and crashed heavily into the boards. He had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher.
Don Cherry has been calling for a change to no-touch icing for years during his Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night In Canada. The subject comes up almost every year at GM meetings but the prevailing thought has always been that no-touch icing creates too many stoppages in play and takes away from the flow of the game.
“We’ve talked about it at (NHLPA) meetings,” said forward Matt Stajan, the Leafs’ union rep. “It comes up every year. It’s up to the competition committee. I’m sure they’ll look at it again in the summer. …
“Personally, I like the race for the puck, but obviously people are getting hurt,” added Stajan. “Sometimes hits are being thrown and you wonder about the respect factor. Every time there’s an injury it makes everyone aware of it again. Eventually there will probably be something done.”
Leafs defenceman Antron Stralman had only known no-touch icing in his native Sweden until coming over to the NHL this season.
“The first time I got here I thought it was a little scary, always having someone chasing you into the boards,” said Stralman, 21. “Most guys have respect and they don’t finish checks when there’s an icing. I actually think the way it is here is pretty good, it keeps the momentum in the game. There’s not a lot of whistling all the time.
“Back home there’s a lot of breaks, a lot of whistles, you lose a bit of the pace of the game. So I think (touch icing) is a good thing.”
But the Foster injury made everyone wince in the Leafs’ dressing room.
“I mean, it’s always going to be situations like that when it’s 50-50 for the puck,” said blue-liner Staffan Kronwall, who also grew up in Sweden playing no-touch icing. “And those situations can end up being unlucky for some guys. But it’s been the rule here forever I think, I kind of feel like it’s part of the game over here. I definitely feel like that injury last night would not happen with no-touch icing.
“There probably would be a few less injuries every year if it was no-touch. But it’s a tough call.”