SUN Hockey Pool

New NHL rule 'ices' teams attempting to reduce heat

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:58 AM ET

It's a tiny part of sweeping National Hockey League rules changes but coaches already see it as having the potential for an incredible impact on the game.

Icing. It's innocuous enough. A team under pressure relieves it by firing the puck the length of the ice to get some breathing room.

The puck is brought back for a faceoff in the icing team's zone while the besieged team regroups. No big deal.

But wait a minute.

That team can't bring on fresh troops while the other team can substitute freely. Suddenly, the defending team is under even more pressure.

"The icing rule can place you at an unbelievable disadvantage," Detroit Red Wings new coach Mike Babcock said after his team knocked off the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 in overtime in an exhibition game this week. "It's like a power play for the other team.

"One coach gets his fresh guys out there against tired ones. It could result in the goal that wins the game. Who'd ever think the turning point of a game was icing the puck?"

Who, indeed?

You can see the mad scrambles. The team icing the puck suddenly resembles the laggards in a caribou herd as they strive on burning legs to get to the bench and avoid the hungry wolves preparing to close in.

It's not likely they'll be able to sneak in under the radar, though. Off-ice officials assist the linesmen in determining who was on the ice prior to the icing so guys gasping for a rest after a long shift won't get one.

Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville's dread equals Babcock's.

"Icing has become like a penalty," he said. "There's going to be a lot more importance placed on the faceoff after an icing now."

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Babcock was ambivalent about how the new rules have changed the game.

"It used to be you'd have to pay a price to get to the goal, but I don't know if that's the game anymore," he noted. "But this game took just two hours, 19 minutes to play and the fans were entertained."

One beneficiary of the rules applications is London's fast-skating Jason Williams, who is getting extensive ice time.

"For any guy who can skate, you get a little more room out there," he said. "They can't put their stick on you and they can't hold you, so you're not fighting through clutching and grabbing. It opens it up a bit more."

A sign above the Wings dressing room door leading to the ice at Joe Louis Arena says To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected.

To a guy whose ice time was among the leaders Wednesday, Williams isn't about to squander expectations.

"Mike has placed a lot of confidence in me," said Williams, whose goal three minutes from the end sent the game into overtime. "It's basically in my hands what I want to do with it."

Kernels

Former linesman Leon Stickle, now a supervisor, says the new application of restraining fouls will stick. Past attempts to cut down clutching and hooking have failed, but he says the refs are under league pressure to be relentless and call them all. Don VanMassenhoven proved his point, whistling a hooking infraction in overtime that led to Detroit's winning goal . . . Now scouting for the Florida Panthers, Tom Watt saw former London Knight Corey Perry play 23 games. "I just love that kid," the ex-Anaheim scout said. "He's going to be a big, big star." . . . After the teams traded nine shots Wednesday, ex-Knight Brendan Shanahan got the only goal to win the shootout, which is being used in preseason whatever the final score.


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