Touch icing has been a touchy subject over the years. With another unfortunate (and ugly) incident occurring last Friday, the debate about the rules of icing has fired up again. Does a change need to be made? And if so, what will it take for the NHL to make such a change?
Taylor Fedun, 23 years old, is an undrafted defenseman out of Princeton University; he was signed by Edmonton in March. Before last Friday, he was an unknown. Now hockey fans know him as the player that broke his femur in a race for the puck on a delayed icing call. Eventually, hockey fans may also see Fedun’s unfortunate injury (seen below) as a breaking point in the NHL’s decision to change its rules with icing.
Fedun isn’t the first player to suffer such an injury due to touch icing (and the longer the NHL waits to make a rule change, Fedun may not be the last). Defenseman Kurtis Foster, who has been an NHL regular since the lockout, is most known for breaking his femur on a similar play back in 2008.
Foster has been vocal about the league needing to make a change:
“If they were to try the hybrid rule I think it would help, and it would definitely lead to bigger and better things,” he said. “Why not try it in the preseason and then see how it goes, and then make a decision before the season.”
The IIHF changed their rules to the no-touch icing two decades ago when a Czech player by the name of Ludek Cajka died weeks after a head-first collision into the boards on a touch-up icing play. NHLers have seen that first-hand in various international events, including the Olympics, and there isn’t much of a difference.
“It’s going to take a lot to change the rule,” Predators defenseman Shea Weber said. “You’ve seen some injuries over the past few years with broken legs and other things. It’s a dangerous play that doesn’t result that much on the plus side.”
In the linked interview with Foster, he wondered what would have happened if his injury would have been career-ending or worse. So at what point will the NHL finally take the touch-up icing out of the game? It took a player’s death for the IIHF to make a change.
“I would think they’ll start looking at that hybrid icing,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s probably where they’ll end up going eventually. Everyone is so concerned about the injury factor in the game right now. It will come.”
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini had a different view in August:
“The National Hockey League has an intense game that pushes speed and you want to reward the team that is aggressively trying to get the puck back.”
Hybrid icing is something that has been contemplated by the NHL at its Research and Development Camp the last two years. Hybrid icing is explained as this:
Hybrid icing is a mixture of touch and no-touch icing. It gives a linesman the discretion to blow his whistle and stop the play if he believes a defending player will reach the puck first. If the linesman believes the attacking player has a chance to reach the puck first, he keeps his whistle in his pocket and lets the race to the puck play out. The linesman always will side with the defending player and blow his whistle if he feels the race is a tie by the time the players reach the faceoff dots.
Weber is one player that would like to see the NHL institute hybrid icing. His defense partner, Ryan Suter, agrees.
“The touch icing is a tough subject. I don’t know what the point of it is,” he said. “If you had a race to the top of the circles or something, or faceoff dots, that’s the same exact thing. Once you get to the puck you don’t have to do anything; you just touch the puck anyway. Why not race to a point?”
Weber and Suter are not alone. Fedun’s teammate, Ryan Whitney, tweeted this after Friday’s game:
Everyone in our room thinking about Taylor Fedun right now after a very scary injury touching up an icing. GET RID OF THAT RULE.
Foster returned to the Minnesota Wild lineup almost a year later; most importantly, he fully recovered from his broken femur. Hopefully the same can happen for Fedun. Both injuries, among many others, wouldn’t have happened if there was a no-touch or hybrid icing rule instituted.
“If it saves one injury a year,” Suter said, “it’s worth it.”
Photo credit: Getty Images