During the 2011 NHL Research Development and Orientation Camp one of the rule changes they again looked into was how to treat icing calls. As it is now, players have to race to touch the puck to get the icing call or to nullify it. During last year’s camp and again during this year’s camp, they’ve tested out different variations on icing including no-touch icing and hybrid icing.
No-touch icing means blowing the play dead immediately upon the puck crossing the end line on a dump from behind the red line by the offending team. This is the rule that exists under IIHF rules and what we’ve seen called in the World Championships and Olympics the last couple years.
Hybrid icing differed from conventional icing in that once the puck was past the end line, the first player to the face off dot in that end would either get icing waved off or get it whistled down immediately. It’s a rule that’s currently in place in college hockey and the USHL and after seeing it in effect up close, it’s one that works rather seamlessly.
NHL general managers, however, mostly disagree with no-touch icing as NHL.com’s Dan Rosen shares from R&D Camp in Ontario.
“I am not for no-touch icing whatsoever,” Phoenix GM Don Maloney told NHL.com. “Watching enough other leagues that have the no-touch, what I don’t like is when the play stops. The puck is still moving but all the players stop and wait for it to go over the goal line. It’s a speed game and you’re supposed to play to the whistle. I just don’t like that. It just aesthetically looks poor.”
“The National Hockey League has an intense game that pushes speed,” added Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini, “and you want to reward the team that is aggressively trying to get the puck back.”
That said, Maloney, Tambellini and many of their fellow general managers remain intrigued by the concept of hybrid icing, which is a mixture between touch and no-touch icing and gives the linesman the discretion to call icing or wave it off.
The possibility of seeing hybrid icing in the future exists as many of the GMs said they’d like to see it tested in the AHL first before getting a chance to examine it for the NHL. A move to hybrid icing away from the current way it’s called would make for a sensible change to the game.
After seeing the rule used up close and personal in college hockey during the past year, it’s one that makes sense to use as it still keeps the aggressive play involved and the speed is still there, just the risk of having a player getting crunched needlessly into the end boards is eliminated and fans still get the race for the puck that many coaches, players, and GMs like with how icing is currently called.
Since player safety is such a major issue in the league, switching to a brand of icing that takes the discretion on icing plays from whether or not a guy should’ve hit an opponent and changing it to whether or not one guy beat the other to the face off dot to confirm or nullify icing makes a ton of sense. After all, the only time we see guys racing each other down the rink is at the All-Star Skills Competition for the fastest skater. Making this one change could add another thrill (albeit a bit of a drier one) to the game.