The annual March meeting of the NHL’s GMs put hybrid icing on the agenda. Now, at least 20 GMs have voted to bring a rule change recommendation to the Competition Committee. If it is passed by the Competition Committee, the rule change will be moved to the agenda of the Board of Governors.
There was a so-called breakout group of about seven NHL general managers that agreed to take hybrid icing to the March meeting: Florida’s Dale Tallon, Chicago’s Stan Bowman, Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher, Carolina’s Jim Rutherford, Montreal’s Pierre Gauthier, Vancouver’s Mike Gillis and the Long Island’s Garth Snow.
“I think it just takes time,” said Rutherford. “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.”
Hybrid icing is seen as popular because it’s a compromise. It allows the game to keep the exciting rush for the puck while still theoretically protecting players from banging dangerously into the end boards.
Hybrid icing means that a linesman makes a judgment call using the faceoff dots in the offensive zone. If the forechecker leads the race for the puck once it passes the faceoff dot, there will be no icing and play continues. If the defenceman leads the race or if there’s a tie in the race for the puck once it passes the faceoff dot, icing is the call.
“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.”
No-touch icing is off the table, for the record.
“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.”
There will be, of course, some trouble with the so-called judgment calls from the officials with respect to hybrid icing. It has, however, been tested at the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp for at least two years now and is used in other leagues.