The NHL’s new hybrid icing rule will immediately come into effect. It should be welcomed, but remember, officials will be forced to judge another split-second situation.
In general, I’m what you’d call a traditionalist. I like my fights, I appreciate my defensive, low-scoring hockey and I think every fan should wear a fedora to the game.
Usually that would mean I’d stand up against a fairly significant rule change like hybrid icing. But at some point over the history of Every Sport, a rule or a way of doing things needs to adapt to conditions. Even in the most traditional of all sports, baseball, the height of the pitcher’s mound has been changed, which has as profound an effect on that game as enlarging the nets would in hockey.
The NHL’s newest rule, officially voted in by the players on the eve of the season, doesn’t go nearly that far – hybrid icing is an absolute no-brainer.
Here’s the extension of the icing rule (81.1):
“For the purpose of interpretation of the rule, there are two judgments required for “icing the puck”. The Linesman must first determine that the puck will cross the goal line. Once the Linesman determines that the puck will cross the goal line, icing is completed upon the determination as to which player (attacking or defending) would first touch the puck. This decision by the Linesman will be made the instant the first player reaches the end zone face-off dots with the player’s skate being the determining factor. Should the puck be shot down the ice in such a manner that it travels around the boards and/or back towards the end zone face-off dots, the same procedure shall be in effect in that the Linesman shall determine within a similar distance as to who will have touched the puck first.”
The race to the end zone faceoff dot will be the new race for the puck. Linesmen will now, as they have been through the pre-season, blow down icing when it appears the defender will be first to reach the puck as he hits the dot. Thankfully, this will limit the number of times players race from the other end of the ice into a situation where Kurtis Foster, Taylor Fedun, Joni Pitkanen and others have suffered some of the worst, most needless injuries.
Chasing down icing hasn’t been eradicated – nor should it – but this change will greatly cut down on the number of times a defenceless player is forced into a physical situation and dangerous position.
The part of this rule that will likely lead to the most outrage is the fact officials have been tasked with another judgement call. At this point, it’s wise to remind ourselves that linesmen are humans who will make a mistake in a split-second situation from time to time. Not only does the linesman have to see who gets to the dot first – he has to be sure that player will reach the puck first as well.
So next April, when your team needs a goal to keep its playoff hopes alive and a linesman whistles down the play when your player clearly was going to get there first, remember this:
At its core, it’s for a good cause.