Hybrid Icing! Or, On Middling Positions and Bargaining Pitfalls

A season cut short by a stupid rule. Photograph by Beverly Schaefer all rights reserved.

Nearly a month ago, prompted by Taylor Fedun's return to the rink, I wrote a fanpost that dealt with the future of the icing rule among other things. Mostly, I was curious about the ability of certain events to galvanize sentiment and channel action. It appeared to many at the time of the Fedun injury that a long-standing consensus regarding the need to alter the icing rule would finally see it's day in court. However, the late Fall/early Winter GM meeting seemed to pass the icing question by with nary a word. The lack of action (compared say to the quickness with which the league responded to the perceived threat to goalies in the wake of the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller) had me wondering if and when the league would address the icing rule. In recent days, the GMs have met and placed icing at the forefront of their discussions. So, what can we expect and when can we expect it?

According to reports, the NHL is in line to adopt the hybrid Icing rule already in practice at both the NCAA and USHL level. Writing for, here's how Dan Rosen describes hybrid icing:

With hybrid icing, the linesman is required to make a judgment call at the faceoff dots in the offensive zone. If the forechecker is leading the race for the puck when he reaches the faceoff dots then play is allowed to continue. If the defenseman is leading the race for the puck -- or if he is even with the forechecking forward at the faceoff dots -- then the linesman is to blow his whistle to stop the play and immediately call icing.

Essentially, hybrid icing grants the players extra time and ice to work with (re: stop or go depending on whether the play is called or not). Looking at the last two notable cases (Fedun and Kurtis Foster), Racki argues that Hybrid Icing, if properly implemented, could very well have prevented injury. Indeed, Lisa McRitchie notes that Fedun himself has come out in favor of the rule change.

However, Racki raises an interesting question: why opt for this middling position and not go for no-touch icing? The answer appears to be that the NHL is committed to the perceived excitement ginned up by these races for the puck. Presumably, lingering in the darker corners of this answer is the lurid interest surrounding injuries themselves and the rubbernecking they bring. That is, part of the answer, perhaps, is that the NHL believes we want to experience the thrill of injury's constant threat. This certainly complicates the interest fans might have in seeing the pure idealism of a sporting race for the puck.

So, which is it fan: are you happy with Hybrid? if so, what is it that thrills you about the race for the puck?

A second question occurs to me via Scott Reynolds' comments to my previous post. Reynolds argued (persuasively I might add) that one of the current problems with the touch icing rule is a lack of implementation. Without remarking on the virtues of the various options (touch, no-touch, hybrid), Reynolds argued "I wish the officials were more dogmatic in calling it such that it was almost never waved off." This was in response to my suggestion that refs should be given more leeway in making an icing call. It is unclear to me whether hybird icing enhances or delimits the discretion and responsibility of the officials. As such, I'm left wondering about his argument: does hybrid icing leave too much room for official discretion? Is that discretion left in to foster the perceived interest of fans in seeing a race for the puck and offensive play? Does that perceived interest pressure (even if unconsciously) officials to wave plays off in the interest of exciting hockey?

Finally, Damien Cox notes that the NHLPA, seeking to enhance its bargaining position, or perhaps simply to flout the NHL, will probably refuse to consent to any changes any time soon. Such an action would follow the course the NHLPA charted when they rejected the restructuring of the NHL earlier this year. The logic here seems to be that the NHLPA, by insisting on consultation and by exercising its ability to tank rule and structural changes, wants its strength to be felt at every turn heading into the next CBA. That certainly makes some kind of sense: "if I give an inch here, I lose a mile." However, in cases where there is no serious philosophical disagreement and where inaction would appear to endanger its members I wonder if the NHLPA is cutting off its nose to spite its face (even if only in the interim)?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this FanPost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of the staff.

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