Today, the NHL Players' Association took a league-wide step in the right direction for player safety. The League experiment that was hybrid icing during the preseason will now take full effect in the regular season. The new rule change was subject to "mixed feelings" as pointed out by multiple outlets. However, today, the players must have found enough votes to pass the measure. Deputy Commisioner Bill Daly announced the new rule today on NHL Live.
Just last season, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen won the race to the puck for the icing infraction but suffered a major foot injury in the process. He is projected to miss the entire 2013-2014 season with a broken heel.
Wild fans are all too familiar with this injury. In 2008, Wild defensemen Kurtis Foster was trying to beat out then Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell, to the puck, lost his footing, and ultimately broke his left femur. Foster would miss the following season to rehab.
Fans and players alike that do not like the new rule feel that it is over-reacting to a problem that is few and far between. The very dire reality is that no matter how infrequent these incidents occur, more often than not, the injuries are catastrophic in that it almost always leads to early retirement and limited mobility in the remaining life of that player.
Hybrid icing will differ from the touch-up icing that we have all been accustomed to in the NHL and the automatic icing that is seen in international play. The NCAA enacted hybrid icing just last season and it seemed to work there with no problems of linesman interpretation. Instead of the play either being whistled dead upon the puck crossing the end red line, or having a player race to the puck and touch the puck, the race will now be determined by the hash marks of the faceoff dots. This is to keep the "chase" alive and yet still protect the defensemen. The play will be whistled dead immediately if there is no opposing player attempting to chase the puck.
Hybrid icing is here to stay, whether you like it or not (at least for this season). I think most fans and players will take some time to get used to the change. The rule change is meant solely for the elimination of career-ending injuries caused by the chase for the puck for icing. It only makes sense the league that is trying improve player safety makes this switch now and for the future of the game.