It’s one of Don Cherry’s favorite causes – railing against the NHL’s icing rule, and the number of injuries it causes. With last night’s season ending ankle injury to Joni Pitkanen, it is a topic that is sure to heat up once again. Pitkanen injured his ankle in a race to touch up for an icing with the Capitals’ Troy Brouwer and is out for the season with a broken ankle. Here is the play for those who are not too squeamish to watch (and I don’t blame you if you are):
This certainly isn’t the first injury on an icing play, and it certainly won’t be the last. Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens injured his shoulder crashing into to the boards during a game in March and missed two weeks.
The worst of these icing injuries is surely the one suffered by Kurtis Foster several years ago. Foster went crashing into the boards and broke his leg in several places. Here is the play:
Foster’s injuries were so severe he required emergency surgery. He spent 10 hours on the operating table and relays that he lost so much blood that he nearly died from the experience.
Foster’s injury is the most horrific, but it certainly isn’t an isolated incident. In fact, we see two or three of these injuries a year. Many of them are serious, such as those suffered by Pitkanen, Foster, Taylor Fedun, Al MacInnis, Glen Wesley, Mark Tinordi, Marty Reasoner, Marco Sturm, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Pat Peake over the last 20 years. Now, I admit, that’s a pretty low number when we consider the number of injuries in the NHL every season, however, what we do see is that when they occur they are very serious, such as those listed above.
It’s the nature of the event. You have two guys skating full out for 100 feet or more, chasing the puck, each trying to touch it first, and doing so facing the end boards at the end of the rink. If anything goes wrong, there is only one possible outcome, a full-on, full speed crash into the unforgiving boards behind the net. The injuries cause are severe, and safety really should be considered with this rule, as no one ever wants to see an incident like Kurtis Foster’s or worse.
Despite that, the NHL and NHLPA (they are both culpable here) have done little to change the rule. Apparently someone, somewhere, thinks that two players going barreling down the ice in a chase for the puck on an icing call is exciting. Perhaps it’s the same guy who came up with the race for the football instead of the coin toss in the XFL. Really, we must ask if there is need for this rule? Do fans find the NHL’s icing more exciting than the no-touch version we see in the international game? Does it really add anything to the game to see guys chasing down an icing?
The risks are too great, and the reward on this play too little to justify keeping the touch-up icing in the game. The NHL needs to do something, and do it quickly, before something more serious happens on the ice.
…and that’s the Last Word.
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