March 12, 2012
Hybrid icing finally gaining traction
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
BOCA RATON, FLA. - In the land of Grapefruit League baseball, Brian Burke has frequently struck out.
But it looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager might have finally hit a home run at the NHL general managers' meetings.
Burke's proposal for a hybrid icing rule looks like it has finally found traction here, with a breakout group of seven general managers to recommend to their colleagues Tuesday that the NHL adopt the change with an eye towards cutting down the sometimes catastrophic injuries which can occur in races for the puck.
Burke said he has been proposing the rule change for the last half a dozen years and was happy to hear it's got a chance of being implemented this time around. A rule proposal needs the approval of 20 general managers to be forwarded to the competition committee for consideration.
Why has there been acceptance for the rule -- play would be whistled dead on a potential icing call if the defenceman is ahead of the forward or the two are even when they reach the face-off dot -- this time around?
"Maybe someone else proposed it this time," said Burke. "It probably has its best chance if someone else proposes it."
There have been some horrific injuries on icing plays.
Kurtis Foster, while playing for the Minnesota Wild, had his femur broken when he was spilled into the boards four years ago. The same thing happened to Edmonton Oilers defenceman Taylor Fedun during training camp this year.
"A lot of the injuries in that situation are so serious," said Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier, who was part of the working group that proposed the rule change. "We need to take a look at it."
"We don't want automatic icing like they have in international hockey. It looks awful," said Burke. "The puck gets iced and everyone stands around. It looks terrible. But the race for an icing now is too dangerous for the defenceman. I think you can keep the race in, but make it safer for the defenceman."
Both the NCAA and the U.S. junior hockey league use hybrid icing, with the face-off dot representing the point where the linesman must decide to whistle the play dead or allow it to continue.
"We keep the chase, we keep the fan interest -- it's an exciting play for our fans -- but we make it safe for the defencemen," said Burke. "I put this on five, six years in a row I think now and I haven't had any success. Hopefully that will change here."
It looks like it will.
"Our group was really positive. All our guys were for it," said Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon. "We've seen it in the (research and design) camp and we've seen it in the U.S. junior hockey league. It's the same concept."
Another rule change which seemed to get some support was the possible introduction of a minor penalty for a hand pass in the defensive zone. The general managers are looking for ways to create more offensive opportunities and want to deter defensive players from using the hand pass to get themselves out of trouble.
"A player who makes a hand pass is usually in a deficit position. He's lost his stick or he's on his stomach," said Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who was part of the working group that came up with the proposed change (which was apparently initiated by Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis).
"He's making a desperate play. If he's not allowed to do it, it could lead to opportunities for the offensive team."