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Friday, March 21, 2008

Forget No-Touch Icing, Lets Abolish it all together.

I wasn't the first to move on this issue, so I'll state that straight away. But, much like my previous piece which listed numerous viable -- and frequently radical -- changes that would help revolutionize the NHL, I've found another rule that needs to be altered. The climate following Kurtis Fosters' unfortunate leg injury has created yet another opportunity to start some buzz around a similarly radical and potentially beneficial alteration to the NHL rule book.

The debate has been focused on two options: keep the status quo or enact the no-touch icing policy currently observed by International and minor hockey associations. Regardless of your position in this arena, I urge you to consider the following in lieu:

Lets abolishing icing all-together.

To begin, this is a dated rule which the game has outpaced. It was enacted in 1939 to deter over-matched teams from repeatedly rifling the puck the length of the ice in desperation. Todays rich talent pool ensures completive balance effectively nulling the original impetus for the rule.

Less empirically, the main reason we (I and others) support touch icing is because it serves to reduce whistles and generate offense, two desirable events that are attenuated by the no-touch variation of the rule.

Granted these injuries are terribly unfortunate while happily few and far between (which is illustrated by the fact that we don’t talk about change unless the GM meetings are being held, or someone has recently been injured as a result of the current rule; see Bergeron & Foster). Safety risks are inherent to professional sport and attempting to mitigating these risks by altering the structure of the game should be avoided.

To account for eliminating icings in their entirety, why not provide each team with an icing quota to serve as a deterrent for endlessly dumping the puck 200ft? Say a happy alternative is reached whereby each team is allowed 1, 1, and 2 icings respectively per period after which a minor penalty will be assessed (with penalty killing being the exception). Players will quickly adapt and fine tune their dumping skills or face the consequence of either a minor penalty, or rewarding your opponent with a scoring opportunity.

It's time the NHL changes this rule and it's incumbent on them to considers all potential options when doing so. Don't pass judgment based on the aesthetics or the complexity of the rule itself (which admittedly is far less cut-and-dry than the current form), but judge it on the merits of said rule and its ultimate impact on the game. Our sweeping objectives are to reduce injuries, keep the pace and continuity of play high, while reducing the time in which a game is played – all of which are address with by the above proposal to abolish icing.


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