No Excuses: NHL must implement “No-Touch” Icing.

Taylor Fedun’s season-ending leg injury yet another reason why the NHL must change their icing rule.

For more than a few years now, there’s been calls for the National Hockey League to adopt the policy of “no-touch” icing, thus reducing the risk of serious injury to players.

On September 30th, 2011, in a preseason game between the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild, Oilers prospect defenseman Taylor Fedun suffered a season ending leg injury (broken femur) after falling awkwardly into the end-boards when knocked off stride  by Wild forward Eric Nystrom as they pursued the puck. Fedun was trying to touch the puck to bring about an icing call, Nystrom to nullify the call.

Had the “no-touch” or “automatic” icing rule been in place, the play would’ve been whistled dead as soon as the puck reached the goal line. There wouldn’t have been any need for a race between Fedun and Nystrom. The former wouldn’t have been injured, and the latter wouldn’t have felt guilty about it, and certainly wouldn’t have been harassed by irate Oilers fans on Twitter.

Traditionalists within the NHL have argued against the implementation of “no-touch” icing, suggesting it would remove an exciting element from the game.

The problem with that argument, however, is that rarely is a game determined by the outcome of such dangerous races for the puck, and is too brief a moment to merit much remembrance from fans.

One almost never hears fans exclaiming one of the most memorable parts was a race for a loose puck which negated an icing call, unless of course, a player gets seriously hurt.

While the frequency of injury resulting from “touch” icing is low, they are nevertheless often quite serious, sometimes horrifically so.

Pat Peake was a promising young forward with the Washington Capitals in 1996 when, during a playoff game, he crashed into the endboards attempting to nullify an icing call. Peake suffered a career-ending foot injury as a result.

That was enough to make a convert of “no-touch icing” of Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry, who is as staunch a hockey traditionalist as you’ll see, but after seeing Peake’s career ended, Cherry called for the NHL to adopt the no-touch icing rule.

Every season since, on his “Coach’s Corner” segment on HniC, Cherryhas called for this rule change, but the league continues to either turn a deaf ear or drag its feet addressing the subject.

Meanwhile, the injuries resulting from the current rule have continued.

Al MacInnis, Glen Wesley, Mark Tinordi, Marty Reasoner, Marco Sturm, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kurtis Foster are among those who’ve suffered serious injury over the years because of the league’s stubborn refusal to change its icing rule.

Other leagues, especially those in Europe, have used automatic icing for many years now, and it hasn’t adversely affected their game.

The IIHF adopted the rule following the death in 1990 of Czech player Ludek Cajka, who crashed head first into the boards rushing for the puck in an icing situation.

One shudders to think it would take something this extreme to force the close-minded traditionalists within the NHL to finally see the sense of “no-touch” icing.

Fedun’s injury, however, could finally become the tipping point that forces change.

Following the Oilers-Wild game, Fedun’s teammates Taylor Hall and Ryan Whitney went to Twitter to call for immediate change to the icing rule. In an interview with Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, Cherry once again took the league to task, and Foster also called for the league to change the rule, as did Jones in summing up his column.

This isn’t about robbing the game of excitement. Touch icing is not what brings the fans to the games, and the quality of the NHL product won’t suffer by its absence.

It’s a safety issue, and high time the NHL finally addressed it.

The league was quick to move this summer to adopt changes to the arena glass following the scary season-ending injury to Montreal’s Max Pacioretty after he was checked into a glass partition by Boston’s Zdeno Chara.

Surely, the NHL brain trust isn’t insinuating Fedun’s injury wasn’t serious enough to merit a rule change by its continued silence on the matter?

We don’t need to see a player paralyzed or killed because some in positions of authority within the league are stupidly stubborn. This is a rule which can be easily implemented, without any adverse affect to the flow of the game or its physicality, and will go a long way toward preventing more season-ending injuries like the one suffered by Fedun.

The NHL cannot continue to justify its position. “No-touch” icing must be implemented, and must be done as soon as possible. Not next season. Not in five seasons. Not following months of experimentation or an exploratory committee.

It must be done right now.

8 Comments

  1. I completely agree that no-touch icing should be implemented and have felt this way for many years. I simply do not understand the argument from the Brian Burke types that it would be removing an exciting play from the game. The game is full of exciting moments and exciting plays, if you asked most fans to list their favourite parts of the game, I doubt a race for touch up icing would be even close to the top of anyone’s list. If anything I cringe when I see a race for an icing call because I don’t want to see what might happen.

  2. gmac, Burke is for change on the icing rule. Get the facts straight before you comment. He was one of the few GMs that had multiple proposals for a numerous of changes that will help create a safer atmosphere for players. Don’t get me wrong, he still likes smash-mouth hockey but he’s all in for taking out things that put players in danger when its something that can be done about it.

  3. So many other leagues have adopted this, I don’t understand why the NHL has not led the way. The IIHF and USA Hockey have no-touch icing, as does the NCAA (which might be governed by USA Hockey rules, I’m unaware of the particulars). Hard to come up with a list of cons to this. The only one I can think of is if a player on the offending team is clearly going to get there first, they’re essentially being punished if they can’t get to the puck before it gets to the line. However I’d rather see that than see said player get buried by a hulking defender.

  4. How’s this for an excuse: dangerous puck races are part of hockey and that won’t change……unless you carry your logic further and find even more plays to whistle down. We haven’t seen one of these in more than 3 years so it’s not exactly a plague. I’ve seen a tonne of no-touch icing hockey and yes it is less exciting. I suppose you’d like to be able to whistle down a similar race in a short-handed situation, or at least will raise an outcry as soon as someone gets hurt in that situation. There are injuries in hockey. The constant scandalising of every incident is getting pretty tedious.

  5. Thing of this is that it’s not really an exciting part of the game, yet keeps the door open to serious injury.

    Clearly the league isn’t all that interested in the players safety, as long as this unneeded rule is in play.

  6. tux there’s a big difference between accidental injury and reckless situations. Sure, it’s hockey, people are going to get hurt. We all understand that. There’s no reason not to ensure more safety among players though. I would contend that greater than 9 times out of 10 the offending team does not touch it up first. I’d go further in saying over half of those times, the offending team is not even in the race. So to say no-touch icing is less exciting seems like a fallacy when for the most part there is no race in the first place.

    We haven’t seen one of these in a couple of years, but I’d rather see these every couple of nevers instead. Dunno if you’re too young to remember the Travis Roy thing, but that sort of injury has no business in sports and I’d hate to see a player have to live with that guilt. The guy from the Edmonton-Minnesota incident was feeling shitty enough and that’s just a broken leg. The NHL doesn’t need worse than that.

    The other scenarios you offer are baseless statements that really come off as angry ranting so I’m going to decline addressing them. As far as scandalizing every incident, you’re way off-base there too. The reason we’re all on the anti-headshot train is because headshots are a real problem outside of first person shooters. Serious injuries started stacking up, and we really don’t want that. And it started from “just one incident.”

    If you could guarantee me nobody gets hurt from these races where the offending team usually loses, then maybe you’d have a leg to stand on. As it is, you and I have no idea what will happen the next time one occurs. We know what usually happens, but we also know what could happen. Why sit back and wait for the next really bad one when it really doesn’t add all that much to the game?

  7. 1) I have to agree with “tuxedoTshirt ” its not like we’re having guys go down with injuries every other week on this. I think the current system that dissuades body contact on an icing but presevres the ability of teams to hustle and aavoid the call is proper.
    2) Since the current rule was enacted how many serious injuries have resulted? Please don’t give me the pat answer of “one is too many”. I hate automatic icing. Its boring and needless
    3) Hockey is a fast paced dangerous game. If you want to prevent injuries eliminate all body contact totaly. You’ll sure to see a precipitous decline in injuries(along with TV ratings)

  8. First game of the year, Grabovski beats the icing and the crowd goes wild. There were significant offensive plays in the other two games as well. Do you really want to see them peel off in anticipation of the whistle?
    No one is mentioning the awesome long dump that the Sedins use either.