Hybrid icing is officially coming to the NHL. The Board of Governors voted to approve hybrid icing, and the NHLPA gave final approval after it polled its members.
Throughout the preseason, fans got a good look at the new rule, but what exactly is hybrid icing?
If you are interested, you can check out rule 81.1 in the NHL's official rulebook for a full explanation, but here is the simplest way to explain it.
In the past, whenever a puck was sent down the ice from behind the center ice red line, a referee would blow the whistle for icing once the retrieving team touched up the puck. If the shooting team touched up first, icing was waived off, and the game continued normally.
Under hybrid icing, a referee will use their judgment, and they will automatically blow the whistle if it is a clear situation in which the defending team will touch up. The rule change will give an official more power than before, and here is how the rulebook defines the criteria an official can use to make an icing or non-icing call.
This decision by the Linesman will be made the instant the first player reaches the end zone face-off dots with the player's skate being the determining factor. Should the puck be shot down the ice in such a manner that it travels around the boards and/or back towards the end zone face-off dots, the same procedure shall be in effect in that the Linesman shall determine within a similar distance as to who will have touched the puck first."
For clarification, the determining factor is which player would first touch the puck, not which player would first reach the end zone face-off dots.
If the race for the puck is too close to determine by the time the first Player reaches the end zone face-off dots, icing shall be called.
In short, an official will make an icing call based on where the players are on the ice, but the overall basis of icing will still remain in tact.
The overall goal of this rule is to increase the safety of the game, and to prevent severe injuries from occurring. In the below video, Joni Pitkanen was injured on an icing race, and, as a result, he is going to miss the entire 2013-14 season.
While Pitkanen's injury was a freak one, there have been numerous situations just like it that have resulted in players becoming injured. While the new rule should help prevent some injuries from happening, it could also break up offense.
The Sedin twins have amazing chemistry, and they have used the bank shot along the boards maneuver many times throughout their NHL career. However, an official whistled a bank shot attempt dead during the preseason, even though Sedin was even with the defender chasing the puck.
While this was just an example of a bad call, it is a perfect representation of what can happen this season. NHL hockey is one of the fastest moving sports in the world, and it is going to be tough for officials to get every call right. In the past, it was a lot easier because an official had time to get into position once the puck passed the goal line, but there will be more snap decisions this year.
So now that you have an understanding of hybrid icing, does it make sense for the NHL? Although it will take some adjusting, hybrid icing makes sense. The application of hybrid icing will help make the game a bit safer, it will speed the game up and it will make the game smarter.
Teams will think twice about icing the puck to kill time, because officials will now blow the play dead once it is clear that the defending team will touch up. This same strategy will also prevent less Pitkanen-like injuries, and players will be a little safer.
Offensive chances could be broken up as a result of this new rule, but teams will be forced to adjust quickly. It will force players to become more creative when trying to create offense, and the end result will be a better overall product on the ice.