BOCA RATON, Fla. -- In its sixth year on the agenda at the annual March meeting of the NHL's 30 general managers, hybrid icing now has some support and could be considered for a rule change recommendation this year.
At least 20 managers have to vote in favor in order for the GMs to bring a rule change recommendation to the Competition Committee. If passed by the Competition Committee, a potential rule change then goes onto the Board of Governors' agenda.
"I think it just takes time," Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, who on Monday was among the seven managers in the breakout group that discussed hybrid icing and unanimously agreed to take it into the general meeting Tuesday. "People change their opinions on things. I think this was one that was fairly close last year. But it doesn't mean it's getting passed. I was just in one small group. It was unanimous in that group. So, you know there are seven votes."
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Joining Rutherford in the smaller group were Florida's Dale Tallon, Chicago's Stan Bowman, Minnesota's Chuck Fletcher, Montreal's Pierre Gauthier, Vancouver's Mike Gillis and the Islanders' Garth Snow.
The managers in that breakout group came out in favor of hybrid icing because they feel it is a good compromise. They want to keep the race for the puck in play, but are concerned about making the icing play safer for defensemen who are retreating with their backs turned.
With hybrid icing, it would require the linesman to make a judgment call at the faceoff dots in the offensive zone. If the forechecker is leading the race for the puck at that point, there will be no icing and play will continue. If the defenseman is leading the race for the puck or is even with the forechecking forward, then the linesman is to blow his whistle to stop play and call icing.
Hybrid icing has been tested at the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp for the past two years. It also is used in other leagues. Rutherford said that empirical evidence certainly has influenced opinions on hybrid icing.
"It makes sense," Rutherford said. "It makes it safer for the players. You're not going to get as many of those collisions right along the boards. Now, you're still going to get some if the offensive player wins that initial race because they're still going to race to the puck then -- it's open."
There is no appetite among the GMs for no-touch icing.
"We don't want automatic icing. They have it in international hockey and it looks awful. The puck gets iced and everyone stands around and it looks terrible," Toronto GM Brian Burke said. "But the race is too dangerous for the defensemen right now. I think you can keep the race in, but make it safer for the defensemen. The NCAA rule is you race to the faceoff dot. So if you're the defenseman and I chip it past you, I've only got to beat you to the hash mark and it's play on. If you beat me it's an icing. To me, we keep the chase, we keep the interest for the fans, it's an exciting play for our fans, but we make it safe for the defensemen."