Now that the dust has hopefully settled on the terrible Toyota Prius jokes making the rounds referencing the NHL’s experimentation with hybrid icing, Tuesday night’s opening games of the 2013-14 season commenced with the new icing rule in place.
Monday, it was announced that the rule, which was used during preseason games on an experimental basis, would be used this season after the NHL Players’ Association voted in favor of moving away from touch icing to the hybrid version.
Player safety is at the forefront of the icing change. Some horrific injuries to players racing for a puck below the goal line in recent years have caused the league to look for alternatives to touch icing.
Hybrid icing is seen as a compromise. While most enjoyed the races for the touch either to trigger or negate an icing call, the risk of injury to players was too great to ignore.
Instead of waiting to see which team's player touches the puck after it crosses the goal line, the players will race to the faceoff dot, where a linesman will judge which player arrived there first as judged by their front skate. If the defending team is ahead, the icing will be called. Should the offensive team win the race, play will continue.
The Nashville Predators were among the teams who voted in favor of implementing hybrid icing.
“It’s good for the game,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a balance. I think you want to evolve. As much as you want to be a traditionalist, I think the game has gotten faster and quicker, and player safety has become paramount. That’s in every league. I think it’s a good change.”
With the level of talent and amount of money the Predators have invested in their blue line, keeping those players in the lineup is extremely important.
It will take some getting used to though, and with it being new, players, coaches, and officials all have some adjusting to do.
“It is a good thing that they are trying to increase the safety for guys going back for pucks,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “I think there is obviously still a lot of gray area and we are just going to have to try and get used to it and then work together with the linesmen to try and get it dialed in.”
One issue with the linesmen is the fact that oftentimes they are trailing the players racing for the puck and not stationed at the faceoff dot where they will judge who won the race to.
While the number of collisions on icing plays should be reduced, they will not be eliminated entirely. But with the decision happening at the faceoff dot, the hope is that even if a player loses an edge or gets tangled up with his opponent, they will be able to recover or brace themselves for impact with the boards better than they were able to do with the touch icing.