NHL: Why the Icing Rule Is a 'Must-Change' in the New CBA

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NHL: Why the Icing Rule Is a 'Must-Change' in the New CBA
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Defenseman Kurtis Foster suffered a broken leg in the 2009-10 season while chasing down the puck to get an icing call.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is intent on sticking it to the players as he attempts to "negotiate" with NHLPA leader Don Fehr.

The main issue for Bettman is money—and how he can make more of it for NHL owners. One of the best ways to make money is to spend less, and that's just what Bettman wants to do. He wants to use less of the NHL's income on player salary.

While the way the money is divided in the NHL is the biggest issue in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, it is not the only issue.

One of the prime areas of concern is player safety. Rules limiting head shots have been initiated over the past few seasons and players have been hit with multi-game suspensions for breaking those rules.

One of the safety areas that should be addressed in the curent CBA talks is the icing rule. If it is not changed, the NHL is asking for a disaster.

Until the NHL changes the way icing is called, players are going to find that they have been put at risk without necessity.

When the defense clears the puck from its half of center ice and sends the puck across the end line, a race regularly ensues between a forward of the clearing team and an opposing defenseman. If the forward reaches the puck first with his stick, the play is allowed to continue. If the defenseman reaches it first, icing is called and a faceoff is held at the opposite end of the ice.

That's the way the NHL has done it for years, but that's not the way hockey is played at all levels.

In American college hockey, the no-touch icing rule is used (source: Times-Union.com). Instead of a race for the puck, the team that is called for icing is whistled when the linesman sees the puck has crossed the end line.

In other levels of the game, the hybrid icing rule is used. Instead of allowing the race for the puck to continue all the way to the end boards where a collision could result, the linesman blows the whistle if the defenseman is leading the race by the time he gets to the end zone face-off dots. However, if the offensive player is even or leading the race, the official does not blow his whistle.

The hybrid icing rule is a compromise for coaches and players who are concerned about taking the "speed" out of the game.

This would limit the number of needless collisions and has the potential to limit serious injuries.

Players such as Kurtis Foster have gotten hurt badly while racing to reach the puck first. During the 2009-10 season, Foster was playing for the Minnesota Wild against the San Jose Sharks. Foster was checked into the boards by San Jose's Torrey Mitchell and suffered a broken leg as a result of the impact.

The hybrid icing rule will be used in the American Hockey League through Nov. 19 (source: Toronto Globe and Mail). At that point, the AHL's board of governors will vote to see if they want to continue to use the rule through the end of the season.

It would be wise to bring this rule to the NHL if player safety is truly a concern for the league.

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