After testing hybrid-icing during the 2013-14 preseason, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League announced Monday evening that it would be implementing the rule change for the 2013-14 regular season.
A majority of teams supported the measure in an effort to make the game safer.
Hybrid-icing will directly benefit defensemen who often find themselves in a race for the puck with the attacking team. Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Keith Aulie fully is in favor of the change because he was directly affected by touch-icing in the past.
“I’m a little bit biased actually,” Aulie said. “I got tripped on an icing call a couple years back and actually had shoulder surgery.”
“It’s going to help the game and not take away from the forward beating out the puck,” he continued. “If he’s still going to get the puck because the referees are not going to blow the whistle, so it’s the best of both worlds.”
The rule is a mix of touch and no-touch icing. If a linesman believes the defending player will reach the puck first after it crosses the goal line, he blows his whistle. If the referees feels the attacking player will touch the puck first then play continues. That determination is made at the end-zone faceoff dot.
In a scenario where the puck travels around the end boards from one side to the other, the linesman has to make a judgment call on who is most likely to touch the puck first.
In addition, if they feel the race is a tie the linesman again blows the whistle.
“I think in a few weeks when everybody gets used to it, you’re not going to notice a big difference,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “Because it prevents injuries, I think it’s a good rule.”
The rule can also be seen as a way to adapt to the changing times of a typical NHL player.
“The rink has stayed the same, the ice has stayed the same, but players have gotten bigger, stronger and faster,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “Sometimes you have to change what’s happened in the past to help protect the players and hybrid icing does that.”
Hybrid-icing was incorporated into the American Hockey League (AHL) at the beginning of the 2012-13 season during the NHL lockout, but touch-icing was reinstated when the NHL resumed play.
Players across the league participated in a survey at the conclusion of the preseason regarding hybrid-icing and it is seen as the most significant of all the changes implemented this season. Touch-icing was first introduced in 1937 and Monday’s decision was the first amendment to the rule since.
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