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A Deeper Look At Hybrid Icing, Its History And Its Possible NHL Implementation

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As the NHL tests a plethora of potential rule changes, one seems to be more popular than the others: hybrid icing. SB Nation spoke to the man who invented the rule, Scott Brand of the USHL, to see just how the NHL could handle this possible change.

Of the potential changes that have been evaluated over the last two days in Toronto at the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp, there's one that seems to be more serious than the others: the so-called hybrid icing rule.

There's always been a bit of a catch-22 with icing. People want to see injuries cut down on races to the puck in touch icing situations but they don't want to eliminate them and lose that excitement by going to a no-touch, automatic icing system. In short, hybrid icing fixes the dilemma. 

NHL.com's Dan Rosen explains:

Hybrid icing is a mixture of touch and no-touch icing. It gives a linesman the discretion to blow his whistle and stop the play if he believes a defending player will reach the puck first. If the linesman believes the attacking player has a chance to reach the puck first, he keeps his whistle in his pocket and lets the race to the puck play out. The linesman always will side with the defending player and blow his whistle if he feels the race is a tie by the time the players reach the faceoff dots.

The rule has been in place in the USHL since 2007, when it was created by Scott Brand, that league's Director of Hockey Operations.

"We felt we had to come up with an alternative to touch icing," Brand told SB Nation. "We didn't want to go with automatic. I hate automatic icing and I think most people hate automatic icing because it creates lazy ass defensemen."

"I said, 'okay, what are we trying to avoid?' We're trying to avoid contact. So if we move the point of no contact out to the [faceoff] dot, a guy sliding from the dot to the end boards isn't going to get hurt. What you have to do is ask one question -- who would've touched the puck first? Very simple question. That decision is made by the dot."

But has the USHL had any problems with that? After all, opening things up to the discretion of an official leaves a lot of room for human error.

"We might have an issue every 10 games," Brand explained, "but we have more problems with offsides than we do with icing." Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who is attending the NHL's RDO camp in Toronto this week, expressed his concerns about that to Rosen in that same NHL.com piece.

"I know they have to make the decisions on our icings now, but it seems more cut and dried or an easier decision because it's one-on-one than it is with hybrid," he said. "The hybrid is a lot of decision making in a quick second and I think there are going to be a lot of mistakes made if we go with that."

Implementation went pretty smoothly at the USHL level in 2007, but what does Brand think about the NHL possibly adding the rule to their books?

"I'm glad they're attempting it," he told us. "I hope they don't have a knee jerk reaction, you know, because the first month there are always mistakes made until everybody gets used to it. So I hope they don't try it for a month and then say 'ah, this rule sucks.' They have to give it a chance."

The big question, of course, is will it actually cut down on serious injury, like the one Kurtis Foster suffered back in 2008?

That's the whole reason for the change, anyway, and if it's not going to effectively cut down on injury, why bother making the change? In the USHL, simple education was the biggest weapon against eliminating those nasty injuries.

"We educated the players and the officials were smart," said Brand. "You were just told not to touch anybody in an icing situation."

If USHL players can learn, NHL players certainly can, right?

"I can't believe that the smartest hockey players in the world can't figure out not to hit someone on an icing. So no, I don't think [the NHL needs] to go away from touch icing, but if the players aren't smart enough to figure it out then yeah, I guess they have to try something else."