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Icing Rule Gets Another Look

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
   
   
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TORONTO --
A hybrid icing rule aimed at reducing dangerous collisions received some extra attention at the NHL's research and development camp.

Organizers decided to extend the rule to Wednesday's second session because they felt they hadn't seen enough of it in the first one. The proposed change gives linesmen the ability to make a ruling on whether a play will be called an icing based on which player reaches the faceoff dot first.

It's designed to eliminate violent crashes into the end boards that have resulted from players chasing the puck. A number of NHLers have been injured in that manner - including former Minnesota Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster, who missed most of the 2008-09 season after breaking his leg while racing back to touch the puck for an icing.

Ken Hitchcock, who is coaching one of the teams at the development camp, liked what he saw from the hybrid icing rule.

``It's a competitive and safe way of playing,'' said Hitchcock. ``You would almost completely eliminate those big injuries that come and yet you're still creating the competition for (the puck). ... For me, it's a real good idea.

``There's no worse feeling than what happened to a guy like Kurtis Foster - there's no worse feeling than to see something where a guy's out for a long period of time and he didn't have to go out.''

A similar rule is currently in place in the United States Hockey League and a linesman from that developmental circuit was on the ice at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility Wednesday to make sure it was called correctly.

The hybrid icing rule seems to have plenty of support among NHL general managers, who make rule change suggestions to the league's competition committee and board of governors.

``I think the icing rule (is good) because of the risk involved for players,'' said Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier. ``It's proven to be very effective I think in the USHL. It's got a good track record and it's preventative.

``For me personally it's something that may make a lot of sense.''

The NHL's two-day research and development camp is being held to test a number of ideas _ ranging from slight tweaks to radical changes.

Among the more unusual things on display Wednesday:

- Having the puck already on the ice for a faceoff, which is started by a whistle rather than the traditional puck drop.

- Using 3-on-3 and 2-on-2 in overtime.

- Altering the ice surface to have three faceoff dots, one in each zone, down the centre of the rink.

- Placing red mesh in the nets rather than white.

The camp is being held with 33 top-ranked players from the 2011 draft class playing a series of simulated games using different rules. With many NHL GMs and scouts in attendance, Wednesday's first session was played at a very high pace.

``There was that competitiveness there,'' said NHL vice-president Brendan Shanahan, who organized the camp. ``The energy level was great.''
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