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Hybrid icing debate heats up as NHL looks to reduce injury
Current rule ‘just stupid,’ says former Caps forward Pat Peake
Those in favor of hybrid icing like that there’s still the element of competition involved, though ideally with fewer injuries. Pitkanen is expected to be out three to four months, while Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kurtis Foster missed 11 months with a broken left femur suffered on an icing play in March 2008 while playing for the Minnesota Wild. Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust missed three weeks with a separated left shoulder last month.
“I think that it’s a part of the game that there’s no need for it,” said Foster, who also refuses to watch a replay of Pitkanen’s injury. “A race for the puck, yeah it might be exciting, but the moment a guy goes down or something happens, it’s just not needed.”
Peake was injured April 26, 1996, racing Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman J.J. Daigneault to negate an icing when his right calcaneus bone broke in 14 places. He played only five more NHL games, had 19 surgeries and sometimes can’t play soccer in the backyard with his two daughters because the pain is too severe.
“You get a little brainwashed, you do whatever it takes,” Peake said. “Yes, I won the race. I also lost my career.”
Having never seen hybrid icing in action, Peake is nevertheless a proponent of change. Getting married on crutches can have that kind of impact.
“I think it’s a meaningless play in the game,” he said. “The cons outweigh the pros, I guess is the best way to say it a hundred times over. It’s just stupid.”
Caps coach Adam Oates doesn’t want to see injuries like what happened to Pitkanen, but he doesn’t consider icing touch-ups meaningless. Because of that, he’s not sure about a potential change.
“You’re talking a huge play in the game,” Oates said. “You don’t want to see someone hurt. I’m sure they’re really, really trying to figure out the best way to do it because that’s a tough, important play of the game.”
Though not at fault for Pitkanen’s injury, right wing Troy Brouwer felt awful because he was the player in on the forecheck when it happened. He didn’t support hybrid icing before, but seeing that kind of carnage up-close made him reconsider.
“If it’s going to be at the risk of players, then I think the hybrid icing needs to be implemented because of player safety,” said Brouwer, the Caps’ alternate NHLPA representative. “We’re having troubles with open-ice hits and just adding races to the end boards, not too many good things are going to come out of it if guys do get tangled up.”
Peake, who at 39 coaches the Honeybaked 1998 youth team in Michigan, believes that players’ desire to keep the current rule stems from not playing with hybrid icing. He said it, like face masks, could be integrated from the youth level up and eventually become commonplace.
Whether it becomes the norm in the NHL as soon as next season isn’t clear, but the man whose promising career ended on an icing touch-up hopes a change is made before something worse happens.
“You just pray nobody gets killed, really,” Peake said. “I’m telling you right now: Somebody’s going to end up breaking their neck and somebody’s going to end up losing their life or end up in a wheelchair because of the rule. I know, I was there, I was one of them.”
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