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GMs show little support for no-touch icing rule

Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 4:34 PM / 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ETOBICOKE, Ont. -- The icing debate raged for the second straight summer at the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp and the only conclusion is there remains little to no appetite for no-touch icing in the National Hockey League.
 
"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.
 

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Once the first player reaches the faceoff dot, the linesman will have to determine which player would reach the puck first. If it is determined to be the attacking player, the icing is waved off. If it is the defending player, icing is blown immediately. If the race to the puck produces a tie, the linesman would have to blow his whistle to call icing.
 
The rationale is that the hybrid icing keeps the excitement of the race to the puck but can eliminate some of the dangerous collisions that could result.
 
"I'm in the camp that one injury because of the icing the way it currently is is one too many, so I think (hybrid icing) is a good compromise," Nashville GM David Poile told NHL.com. "It's a safety issue. We're doing a lot of things to protect the players and this would be another one."
 
Maloney's main concern with hybrid icing is adding a discretionary call to the linesman's duties. He's not alone.
 
"We've talked about situations where if that was a meaningful game and it was the third period and the linesman made a judgment call," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The puck has to go all the way to the other end and you couldn't change, so you'd see some pretty red faces from coaches and it would be a factor in the game."
 
"I always like when you can take the discretionary element out of the call because then it's easier for the officials and the teams to understand," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.
 
To that end, Tambellini said the officials and linemen are paid to make discretionary calls and this would just be another one.
 
"We have competent people that are managing that part of the game and if that is in place, I don't think it will be difficult to call," Tambellini told NHL.com. "It's like a baserunner getting called out at first. It's a bang-bang play and someone has to make a call."
 
Added Poile: "I think it's actually easier than calling it when it's two sticks reaching out for the puck almost at the same time. It can be difficult to differentiate who touched the puck, so this can not only be a safer situation but an easier situation to call."
 
But how necessary is it for the NHL to make a change to the way icing is called? That question draws different answers from coaches and general managers.
 
The general managers polled by NHL.com at the RDO Camp would like to see hybrid icing tested at the AHL level for a full season before it's put to a vote at the NHL level. They're thinking about player safety, though Maloney did say he wouldn't object if the League kept the icing rule in its current form.
 
The coaches present at the RDO Camp didn't seem too keen on the idea of hybrid icing because there is already a rule in place that prohibits any unnecessary or dangerous contact between opposing players who are pursuing the puck on an icing. If there is contact between the players, it must be for the sole purpose of playing the puck and not eliminating the opponent from playing the puck.
 
The rule came in shortly after Kurtis Foster shattered his left femur as a result of a race to the puck on an icing with Torrey Mitchell on March 20, 2008. Foster had to undergo a 10-hour surgery and he missed a total of 58 games over two seasons.
 
"This is a rule that is there and it's there for a reason, and it's not called with any consistency," Bylsma said. "In terms of what we're trying to get away from on the icing is contact, and it's in the book. It's just not called. If they called it, it would eliminate anybody's idea that they can have any kind of contact in those situations."
 
Poile, though, countered that by bringing back the issue of player safety.
 
"The players know it's a non-hitting situation, but the speed of the game, the competitiveness to get the puck -- to me it's just a very dangerous situation where skates can give out, ankles can give out or be broken," he said. "It can be any number of things."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday