By Matt Calamia
Players, coaches and fans alike have been getting their first look at a “hybrid” icing system in the NHL during the league’s first week of preseason.
The system — a combination of touch and no-touch — allows the linesman to make a judgment call regarding icings. If he feels the defending team will get to the puck first, the play is blown dead; if the linesman feels the player from the opposing team will reach the puck first, the play will continue.
Currently, the NHL uses the touch system, in which the defender and the opposing player race for the puck. The International Ice Hockey Federation and Canadian Hockey League — the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League —use the no-touch system. The American Hockey League tested hybrid icing last season, but opted to go back to the touch system this season to remain consistent with the NHL.
Opponents of touch method argue it’s a dangerous system due to the race for the puck to the end boards. In theory, implementing a no-touch or hybrid style could eliminate that entirely, making the game safer for all.
“I’d rather have them just blow it down. I don’t even want to race to the dot,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal told BlueshirtsUnited.com after Monday night’s 2-1 preseason loss to the Devils, which was the first night the Rangers played with the hybrid style. “The defenseman going full speed to the end boards with a guy on your back — you know you’re going to get hit. It just doesn’t make sense anymore.”
NHL General Managers approved testing the hybrid system in preseason earlier this summer. A vote by the Board of Governors and NHLPA will then be taken for possible implementation beginning this year.
Last April, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen raced down the ice for the puck on a routine icing call. A moment after reaching the puck, the defenseman lost his edge and slammed feet-first into the boards, breaking his left heel bone. The injury will cost him the 2013-14 season, and possibly his career.
The play would have been blown dead had the NHL been implementing either the no-touch or hybrid system.
“I think for the defensemen, [with no-touch or hybrid] it’s nice to not have a guy right on your back,” said Michael Del Zotto. “It’s dangerous for us. It’s something everyone has to get used to.”
Del Zotto said he could probably speak for all defensemen in that they'd be in support of the rule change, but “whatever the rule is, we’re going to have to play with it.”
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday was his first experience with the hybrid system, and said if it makes the game safer, he’d be in favor of using it.
“I think for the most part, all the calls that were made — except for maybe one — they would have been icing or no icing. If it makes it safer for the players … I’m all for it.”
What do you think of a possible icing change? Will it change the game at all? Let us know in the comments below.