The NHL Board of Governors made some rather insignificant decisions yesterday about the location of face-offs and indicated that goalie equipment will continue to be minimized until we finally get the kind of artificially inflated goal-scoring the kids in the U.S. all seem to like so much.
The BOG did make one rather important pronouncement on contact during icing calls. But it was more about what the amendment didn't do than what it will do:
A change to Rule 81.1 ("Icing") states that "Any contact between opposing players while pursuing the puck on an icing must be for the sole purpose of playing the puck and not for eliminating the opponent from playing the puck. Unnecessary or dangerous contact could result in penalties being assessed to the offending player."
"Could result" ... wow, don't get too emphatic on us there, boys.
This rule change comes months after that grisly incident in which Minnesota Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster fractured his leg when the San Jose Sharks' Torrey Mitchell shoved him in the back on a potential icing call. Here's a refresher:
The change to Rule 81.1 would have done jack and squat to protect Foster; Mitchell was actually penalized for tripping on the play. As I said at the time of the incident, the only things that would have saved Foster and anyone else in his situation were an absolute ban on physical contact when going for an iced puck or no-touch icing, which has a peculiar advocate in Mr. Rock'em Sock'em himself, Don Cherry. Ron Wilson, then of the Sharks and another advocate of no-touch icing, said it best: "I guess that's a play where the fans want to see a big car wreck like that."
I understand the intrinsic entertainment value in racing for a puck, so I get the blowback against no-touch icing even if I don't agree with it. But if the goal is to avoid another displaced fracture in the left femur and subsequent surgery to insert a steel rod -- like Foster had -- this rule change clearly doesn't go far enough. You need to outlaw contact.
And giving NHL referees yet another inconsistent standard of enforcement to worry about, in determining "unnecessary or dangerous contact" on icing plays, is the worst idea in the long sad history of bad ideas.