Hybrid Icing: Is It Working?


The 2013-14 NHL season has ushered in a new rule change: Hybrid Icing. What is it? How does it work? And, now that we’ve had a full month of it, is it being implemented correctly. Here’s the NHL’s take on the new rule:

“In hybrid icing, the linesman blows the play dead and calls icing immediately if the defending player is leading or tied in the race to the faceoff dots in his defensive zone. The object is to try at all costs to avoid the nasty collisions into the end boards that have led to serious injuries to a number of NHL players… If the attacking player is leading the race for the puck, the linesman allows the chase for the puck to continue as is the case in the touch-icing system the NHL has been using since 1937.”  – NHL.com

Basically, this has placed the point that players are racing to much farther from the boards, with the intention of limiting needless concussions, as players would go full steam into the end boards trying to make first touch on the puck. So, is it working? Let’s ask the “Man (or woman) on the Street.”

Matthew Stemper (19) of Hagerstown, MD is a SHOA referee and former high school hockey player, when we asked him about the new rule, these were his thoughts; “I understand what they’re trying to do, and it will definitely cut down on injuries. So far it seems to be working.”

Ivan Carabajal (22) of Los Angeles California is a big LA Kings fan, and is learning to play the sport as well. He shared that “I think It’s working, you know. It’s going to take some time to get used to, but it’ll be good for the game.” These statements seem to reflect the views of most hockey fans, who aren’t overly impressed with the rule, but understand why it was put in play, and will just deal with the kinks until it becomes fluid.

Others were more skeptical, like Eric Wilson (29) of Geneseo, IL, a recent Vista College graduate who isn’t a fan. “Honestly, the whole this is a moot point,” he stated, explaining that “If they were really concerned about injuries, they’d eliminate the stupid trapezoid and let the goaltenders play the puck. It has to be annoying for a goaltender to stand helpless in his crease and watch his teammates slam into the boards.”

Martin Brodeur, for whom the trapezoid was created to handicap, shares this opinion. Other puck handling goaltenders like Mike Smith of Phoenix and  Washington’s Braden Holtby are hampered by the rule, which prevents them from cutting off errant pucks and making outgoing passes as easily.

For now though, while the rule remains less-than-popular with NHL players, it will be allowed to exist, and is being improved upon daily as referees and linesmen continue to hone their calls. It is unlikely to be replaced, and the assumption that avoided injuries will result from the rule is more than enough to tip the balance in today’s NHL. The purists may loathe it, but the sport must evolve to keep up with the size and speed of today’s athlete. 

Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and long-time hockey fan. Scott will posting his thoughts on the NHL and beyond throughout the season. You can find him on Twitter @smhuntington 

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