Hockey R&D 2012 Part 1: Gated Icing
For the past few years the NHL has held R&D camps (Research and Development) where they experimented with numerous rule changes and implemented some new ideas for the betterment of the game and the safety of its players. Due to the CBA talks this year, the R&D camp was not held. So I will be posting a few ideas for NHL fans to mull over. Apologies to the geeks hoping for more jersey designs!
First up is what I call “Gated Icing”, which addresses player safety and adds some drama to what would normally be a routine icing call.
How it works:
Between the face-off circles and the goal line a couple of arching blue lines would be added to the ice surface (Figure 1). These are called “gates” (working name). In the event of an icing, all skaters would have to skate outside the gates to gain entry into the goal line zone (these gates are only in effect when an icing is indicated).
The reason for the gates is to ensure the skaters are moving parallel with the boards. Currently it is hazardous for skaters (especially when competing for the puck) as they are often racing directly towards the end boards behind the net. This can cause ugly collisions which could lead to serious injury.
For the gates players can ‘straddle’ the line as they skate into the end zone – as long as one skate is outside the gate it is a clean entry.
The gates also add a new dynamic to the game, bringing an element of strategy to the act of icing a puck. Now teams might do so in a fashion that would give them the best chance of beating the icing call. For example a team will try to send the puck out of the reach of a D-man favoring one gate (Figure 3.).
The races for the puck would also be quite dramatic if the players entered from opposing gates. I doubt there would be head-on collisions between the players in these instances. The distance between the gates allows the players to see incoming opponents from the opposite corner of the end zone. Players have excellent awareness behind the net.
Goalies might be called upon to bail out their defencemen if they feel the icing call will be beaten.
– There should also be automatic icing calls in addition to gated icing. If the icing appears to be uncontested by the team that iced the puck, play is blown dead. Why waste time off the clock and force a poor D-man to hussle back to his own end of the ice?
– As long as the linesman has his arm up for a delayed icing call the gated entry applies for all skaters. If the icing is beaten, then the gates no longer apply, play commences normally.
– If the team that ices the puck fails to use the gate (enters the goal zone improperly), the icing is then called.
– If the defending team enters the goal zone incorrectly, the icing is waved off. So if a defenceman feels he is going to lose the race for the puck, he can disregard the gates but loses the icing call. This flexibility ensures the defending team is not crippled by the gates in their own zone (resulting in some ugly goals for the other team).
I feel that the players would adapt to these gates just as quickly as the goalies were able to adapt to the trapezoids. Icings would require a lot more mental strategy than they do now, with most of the burden on defencemen to decide whether to earn the icing or just gain control of the puck. I feel there would be fewer icing calls, with more icings negated by the offending team or just the D-man/goalie being forced to play the puck.
In the end I feel this gated icing (in combination with automatic icing) would put more emphasis on player safety while at the same time providing a few more tense moments for fans.