By Allan Muir
With pretty much everybody but Brent Ashton and Mike Sillinger having already been swapped today, the talking heads will have a lot of time to kill on the trade deadline shows on Wednesday.
Chances are they’ll spend more than a little bit of it discussing hybrid icing in the wake of this horrible injury suffered by Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
UPDATE: Pitkanen is expected to miss the rest of the season after breaking his left heel in his collision with the end boards.
You’ve probably heard the term before. If not, it’s a rule tweak that would allow officials to blow the play dead at the faceoff dot or at the goal line at their discretion. The thinking is that the option minimizes the chances that a mad race to the puck will end with the skater out front being injured in a collision with the boards.
It was tested in the American Hockey League, where it was well received. The general managers are in favor of it. So why don’t we have it yet?
Surprise! It’s been blocked by the NHLPA, which prefers to go with European-style no-touch icing or simply leave things the way they are.
The visionaries at the PA also opposed mandatory visors until the wind changed direction after the horrific eye injury suffered by Marc Staal last month. So there’s a chance that Pitkanen’s season-ending ankle injury could lead to a similar repositioning of values.
But unlike the Staal incident, Pitkanen’s injury does nothing to make the case that a change is needed. This is just a fluke play.
The video spells it out. Pitkanen is engaged in a full-speed foot race for the puck with Washington’s Troy Brouwer. As they pass the goal line, Pitkanen fails to properly stop. He slams hard into the boards, hits the ice and immediately begins writhing in pain.
But Brouwer didn’t touch him. He competed hard for the puck, but did nothing to jeopardize the defender’s safety. If anything, his decisions on the play epitomized respect for his opponent. Yet Pitkanen still went down.
Really unfortunate, but not the kind of impact hybrid icing aims to prevent.
Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see something come of this. There’s a lot of airtime to fill tomorrow and images of Pitkanen and other victims like Kurtis Foster and Taylor Fedun are sure to be in heavy rotation, with each viewing adding to the outrage.
The coincidence of timing then, more than the injury itself, may prove to be the catalyst for change.