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"All Geeked-Up for the Deadline..."
Newtown Square, PA • United States • 45 Years Old • Male
The offensive team is cycling the puck deep in the zone, the defenders are forced to react and hope for a miscue...the puck squirts free and the defender banks the puck off the side wall. From the minute the puck caroms off the boards, it looks questionable whether or not it will make it to the end line.

This is a very important game and two players are hustling for the puck - one to force icing, the other to negate it. Stride-for-stride the opposing players race towards the end line, suddenly, one player trips and the unthinkable happens. In one tragic and surreal moment, a 23 year old rising Superstar's skates slam, feet-first, into the end boards. His right heel is shattered to the point where numerous orthopedists claimed that the extent of the injury is likened only to that of a high rise construction worker who might have fallen from great heights.

The year was 1996. The location was Igloo in Pittsburgh, PA. The Superstar-in-waiting was a young Washington Capital in the midst of a playoff series, named Pat Peake. This junior hockey phenom and #14 pick in the first round of the 1991 entry draft would miss 67 games of the 1996-97 season due to extensive and numerous surgeries to try to reconstruct his mangled heel. The 1993 Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year, Pat Peake, retired from hockey at the age of 25. Truly a regrettable and entirely preventable incident.

Junior hockey has the answer. The European professional leagues understand. The ECHL and the Central Hockey League and most all amateur league the world over do as well. The answer, as much as the AHL and NHL might hate to admit it, is the simple idea of No-Touch Icing.

Automatic icing is an idea whose time has come. The race for icing, while mildly entertaining, is quite dangerous when you consider the size, speed and intensity with which today's players go after the puck. The original icing rule was instituted in 1939 - yes the same year as Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia. I think it is a safe bet that the average player in 1939 that was envisioned heading towards the end boards with one of his mates was not 6'3" and 220 pounds. Most every player fits that description today.

There are those who would argue that going to automatic icing would take the intensity and battle out of the game in some way. Perhaps, but when weighed against the potential for the sport to lose someone the likes of Ovechkin or Crosby or Kopitar or Iginla - the argument of 30 seconds of lost intensity seems a little specious.

How can you expect players going close to 30 miles per hour and playing at 110% to ease up to ensure that legs do not get tangled or heads do not get slammed against an unforgiving end board. You cannot. For that reason, the league must do it for them. I am not talking about removing any of the physicality from the game, just the unnecessary pursuit of the puck where the end result upon winning is a faceoff. I know those faceoffs can potentially lead to game tying/winning goals. They can also end up with career threatening consequences. I am not out here crying that the sky is falling...all I am asking is for each of us to weigh the potential gain versus the potential harm to the player and the game.

For those who steadfastly argue that a race to icing is needed to preserve the "sanctity of the game" (to borrow a baseball term), then fine. Make it a race to the end line...not to the puck. The race to the end line would allow those teams who are faster defensively to maintain their advantage and try to ward off the icing call. This would keep the game moving, reduce the potential for injury found as players vector in for the puck and keep a semblance of the "old ways."

Love him or hate him, Don Cherry has been out in front of this issue for eons. In his mind, the safety of the players and the longevity of their careers is paramount. I wholeheartedly agree. I am quite sure there are just as many people who think I ought to have my head examined - they might be right. One thing I do know, is that I don't want to have to explain to my 3 year old, Jake, why a star player that everyone wants to see (or even a 4th liner) had to give up his dream of playing NHL hockey because he permanently injured himself trying to touch up a puck.

We don't need any more Pat Peaks.

Thanks for reading...

December 20, 2007 10:57 PM ET | Delete
amen great blog could not agree more hey missed you in the chat room lately good job buddy
December 20, 2007 11:14 PM ET | Delete
Hey, when did Don Cherry start blogging for HockeyBuzz?
December 21, 2007 1:39 AM ET | Delete
Only problem with no-ice touching is that with no red-line, teams are trying more "home-run" passes and I would guess this would lead to too many icings. However, for the safety of the players, it would be very good. It would be nice to find a way to incorporate no-touch while not calling icings on attempted passes.
December 21, 2007 8:33 AM ET | Delete
Great blog. My personal opinion is not to go in that direction. I like the races for the puck. As far as safety is concerned it is the best option. I have played for years in old man beer leagues and I can't stand it. One of the reasons is explained in leshabitants comment above. I make a pass that usually misses the mark and my player is the only one anywhere near the puck. Instead of having a chance to score it comes right back in my end. But hey great blog either way.
December 21, 2007 8:45 AM ET | Delete
Safety is certainly an issue, but honestly, how often does that happen? Scoring chances result because of the hard work more often than injuries. It isn't safe to dive in front of a shot going 100 mph either, should that be taken out of the game?
December 21, 2007 8:52 AM ET | Delete
FH - Like I said, it is only my opinion, but I would hate to see Mike Richards (who is exactly the type of player who would throw his body at the puck to get to it first) who could lose his promising career and hefty contract, JUST to get to a puck to get a faceoff. Blocking shots is quite another issue and there are many who flat out will not lay down in front of a 100mph slapper. Jason Smith is one who will and does and is revered because of it. Not all players put themselves in that situation. Keep the race to then, but make it a race to the line to determine faceoff location. I would hate to lose AO or Crosby because of a touch up. Just my two cents....SYF
December 21, 2007 9:19 AM ET | Delete
good article syf. i agree. maybe they can make icing from the defensive blue line to eliminate icings caused from missed passes or just instruct the linesmen to watch for a pass accordingly. i mean while most officials suck the linesmen in this league are great.
December 21, 2007 9:46 AM ET | Delete
BMG - now there is a great thought! You are correct about the linesmen, they are top notch. Thanks for your input and thanks for commenting!!! SYF
December 21, 2007 10:34 AM ET | Delete
Excellent work, my good man. Philly's beloved "Count", Bob Dailey, had his ankle broken on an icing race with Tony McKegney back in the day, and I don't think he ever really got back to the same level afterward.
December 21, 2007 11:19 AM ET | Delete
Anything that takes effort and skill out of the game, I am against. I don't like the no touch icing or the trapezoid because it discourages effort and skill.
December 21, 2007 1:22 PM ET | Delete
There must be alternatives that would be acceptable to the majority of hockeydom. Down here, Terry Crisp often mentions his disdain for the current rules regarding icing. It's time to find a solution and move on. Your comment of the race being "mildly entertaining" often fits the scenario. Too often they're pointless endeavors culminating in insignificant results layered with potentially devastating injury. BTW - enjoy your historical references. Touches like that add much to your highly readable blogs. I've got to throw out another 1939 link that will be appreciated by cineastes: it was considered to be the pinnacle of Hollywood's Golden Years. Nice job SYF.
December 23, 2007 11:21 AM ET | Delete
No touch icing, in effect, shortens the rink and helps the defense. I'm against it.
December 23, 2007 2:13 PM ET | Delete
Good blog. I still have to disagree, though. As some people pointed out above, I don't think injuries on touch-up icings happen all that much. If we eliminated every play that could potentially end a career, we'd have a game of golf.
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