D-man wants change to icing rule

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

Every time two players speed into the endboards chasing an iced puck, Kurtis Foster asks himself why?

Eleven months after the Minnesota Wild defenceman went crashing into the boards with San Jose Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell, Foster still hasn't played in an NHL game.

Foster broke his femur in three places, and it took a rod plus several months of rehab for him to make it back.

He isn't there yet, despite finishing a six-game AHL stint with the Houston Aeros. The 28-year-old joined his Wild teammates earlier this week and is awaiting the opportunity to get back into action.

Nearly a year later, nothing has changed with icing calls, and defenceman around the league still put themselves in danger when a forechecker tries to negate a whistle.

"I want the rule to change," Foster said yesterday as the Wild prepared to face the Calgary Flames tonight at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Sportsnet). "There isn't enough of a player vote on it. I don't ever remember getting a questionnaire wondering if it should change.

"I was sitting in a hospital bed for two weeks with a broken femur on an icing "I'm not going to fight it. Until they change it, I will keep going back for the puck. But I just hope it doesn't lead to another person being in the hospital. It's a part of the game that isn't needed."

With the Wild embroiled in a playoff chase, head coach Jacques Lemaire is hesitant to put Foster in the lineup just as an experiment.

Foster did everything he could in yesterday's practice at the Dome to prove he's ready, and the triumphant return could happen on the Wild's current six-game road trip.

"He thinks he's ready, but you've got to get hit -- you've got to hit people so he can feel really good," Lemaire said. "I could tell there will still be time before he comes back. I can tell after the type of practice we did (yesterday)."

When the injury happened, Foster was a free-agent-to-be, but Wild GM Doug Risebrough came through on his promise to re-sign the injured player.

After the incident, Mitchell contacted Foster to apologize, but in a weird twist of fate, the Sharks forward broke his leg driving to the net during training camp.

For Foster, getting back on the ice was a hurdle he passed with flying colours.

"When I played that first game, I was pretty nervous," Foster said. "Once I got through that, and a couple more, I started to feel better and better.

"The last few days of practice, I've started to feel pretty close to normal. Once I get into a game, take a few hits and see what the NHL pace is like again, it will be nice."

Since the injury was high-profile, Foster received several messages of support from people with similar ailments.

He also has called a few younger hockey players who have broken their legs to offer encouragement.

He needed the positive re-inforcement during rehab.

"Through the whole process, it was so long," Foster said. "There wasn't a point where I didn't think I could do this, but there were days when I was down.

"To be where I am now ... I'm just so grateful. I can't wait to get back out there to show people I can still do it."


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