Saturday, 14 September 2013

It Will Take A Few Tweaks

Washington versus Winnipeg tonight! Man, it's like the first day of school in terms of heading down to HBIC Headquarters and watching some live hockey! There are new names to learn, new systems to pick up, and new lessons to learn when it comes to this game. One of the key things that the NHL is teaching tonight is hybrid icing. From the looks of the game thus far, it appears to be working fairly well, if not needing but a few tweaks to make it better. But for all the gruesome injuries seen in terms of races to pucks for an icing call, I think hybrid icing has worked fairly well in this preseason game.

Hybrid icing is used in a vast number of leagues below the NHL, including both the NCAA and the USHL. The best way to explain it is that the linesmen make a judgment call regarding the race for the puck based on who arrives at the face-off dots first. If the defender gets to the dots before the offensive player does, the linesman will blow the play dead to prevent the inevitable collision that will result from the race. However, if the offensive player is ahead of or tied with the defensive player at the face-off dots, the race then becomes like the old icing rule where the linesman will make the call based upon who touches the puck first.

Simple? Ok, so maybe a video explanation will help. Hockey USA explains how the rule works.
Does that make sense? If it doesn't, leave comments below, and we can discuss it there.

Ok, so there were a few blips on the hybrid icing radar tonight, but nothing too egregious. In the first period, it appeared that Evander Kane and Nate Schmidt were even as they crossed the face-off dot in the Washington zone. However, the linesman blew the play dead in thinking that Schmidt may have had a step on Kane or possibly a direct line to the puck that would have allowed him to gain possession sooner. Needless to say, both players arrived at the puck at the same time, and the look on Kane's face spoke volumes about what he thought of the call.

Personally, I want to see this rule instituted. It worked well in the Kraft Hockeyville preseason game, and I think it will save a few defencemen this season. While I realize that the icing calls will always be discretionary, the safety of the players should be mandatory in all situations, and this rule takes the possibility of injury away if called correctly.

There's still room for improvement after watching tonight's game, but as with any rule change, the officials will adapt and the players will follow. I was sold on it at the NCAA level and below before the NHL had even whispered the words "hybrid icing", so count me in as a fan who will support the NHL's stance on this rule. Anything that saves players from injury - in some cases, career-ending injuries - I'm 110% in favor of every day of the week.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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