September 2, 2010

A Bad Idea: The Hybrid Icing Rule

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As the Friday of the first week of classes arrives, it is finally my time to join the slew of Sun sports reporters who have their opinions featured on the back page alternate weeks. So without further ado, I will delve into the first topic that is plaguing my thoughts as my opinions on sports subjects is officially inked to this paper. I hope that Between the Posts finds you well this semester.

For this first installment, I’ll discuss something that is somewhat current. Now, I could’ve written about why Andy Roddick is overrated (such a column would’ve earn me the most hatred from my editor), but his early U.S. Open departure on Wednesday left me uninspired. I also could’ve penned something regarding the Yankees, but I am vowing right now to never do so, considering almost every other columnist (and his/her mother) can be seen worshipping the team as though it were a deity. You have my promise in print. Instead, I will discuss a semi-recent proposal of changes for the sport that actually got me involved with this paper’s sports department over any other section: hockey.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m sure that most hockey fans in the world would have to agree with me: one of the unquestionably most exciting parts of the professional game would have to be the fights. And I’m not talking about the small squabbles between two groups from opposing teams that look like clusters of high school girls heading to the bathroom together, where there is occasional shoving but nothing more substantial before the immediate disbandment of any potential brawls. No, I’m talking about the good and dirty, one vs. one, gloves to the ice and punches thrown fighting that comes with a five-minute penalty consequence. Like the fights that happened in that Senators at Flyers game from when I was still in middle school, where even the goalies threw down their sticks and got ready to brawl in that record-breaking penalty-filled game.

But the point is, fighting is one of the most integral parts to a hockey game. Read: players’ safety does not come before audience interest. And that is by no means a criticism –– it’s quality entertainment.

So, with it established that hockey fights should obviously continue to remain in effect in North America, sans immediate ejection from the game, I would like to comment on some of the proposed rule changes that were brought up at the NHL research training camp in mid-to-late August.

Potential changes included an altered overtime (three minutes of 4-on-4 before 3-on-3 and then 2-on-2, before shootout) compared to the traditional full-strength post regulation play that would go to the shootout. This proposal intrigued me more than anything else, leaving me not with any concrete feelings about the rule, but instead interest to see how this would pan out.

But then there were the proposed changes on the current icing rules. Specifically, the proposed no-touch icing and the “hybrid” icing rules. The hybrid icing situation basically entailed having linesmen decide which player would have reached the puck first based upon who arrived at the faceoff dot before the other.

Since when were such aspects of sporting events like made up data values for a chemistry lab –– based upon the theoretical?

This proposal was instated to reduce the danger of serious collisions that could occur in the race for the puck. And yes, a valiant attempt by Ken Hitchcock and co. to keep the game safer, but why did this become their interest of attack when there’s other parts of the game that are equally as dangerous, if not more, that are let slide?

As aforementioned, I love the fighting. But another great part of the game is watching the players skate down the ice and use full-force speed, showing off their abilities as they race for the puck.

It’s comparable to a track meet or horse race. In my opinion, the best part is when the contestants are closest to the finish line, when spectators are at the edges of their seats to see who can pull ahead at the last second.

And late into a hockey game, when players get tired, it’s little races like these that can make a huge impact on the outcome of who receives the two points for winning the game. It’s the chase that counts here, and that is what gets the otherwise uninterested crowd of barely intoxicated well-suited businessmen excited.

Although this proposed rule may have only been in effect at a prospective player training camp, it has still been afflicting my mind since I first heard about it last month (otherwise this column’s focus would have been elsewhere) because it has gotten into the heads of NHL officials who are looking at how to improve the game.

But th­­e fix would be to make as few changes as possible. Sure, I’m all for instating guidelines that prevent future injuries on the scale of Kurtis Foster’s, but the NHL already did that in 2008 by clarifying icing rules to prohibit intentionally barring opponents from approaching the puck. There’s no need to add more changes that don’t seem to be necessary or warranted. I would hate for small alterations in play to take away from the overall enjoyment of the game I love to watch.

Original Author: Reena Gilani