By Kostya Kennedy, SI.com
The NHL needs to get rid of its touch-up icing rule immediately.
Not next season. Not at the next Board of Governors meeting. Today.
Ask Kurtis Foster, the 26-year-old Minnesota Wild defenseman who was skating toward his end boards to try to secure an icing call in the second period of Wednesday's game in San Jose. Foster was going all out to get to the puck. On his tail was Sharks rookie center Torrey Mitchell, trying to get there first. Foster slipped, Mitchell crashed into him. Foster went high-speed and headlong into the end boards.
Foster lay barely moving on the ice while the game was stopped for many minutes. Players from both teams skated over to give words of encouragement. Foster had his leg put in a splint. He was taken off on a stretcher.
The damage: A broken left femur. Foster will have a rod put into his leg. He's out for the year. And if you saw this play you know the injury could have been a lot worse.
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire seemed displeased that Mitchell got only a two-minute penalty on the play, but Mitchell was just doing what the rules called for. Beat the guy to the puck and you avoid a face-off in your end. (Mitchell felt awful about the crash, and put his hand on Foster's back right away in apology.) Imagine if Mitchell had given up on the play, and slacked off near the end. He would not, suffice it so say, have been greeted warmly on the bench.
Icing -- called when you send the puck from your half of the ice to beyond the other team's goal line -- is a smart concept that forces teams to keep possession longer and to bring the puck up ice. But then there's this: Icing is completed, the rulebook says, "the instant the puck is touched first by a defending player (other than the goalkeeper) after it has crossed the goal-line ...."
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Change the rule so that as soon as the puck goes past the goal-line, the icing whistle blows. No-touch icing. Simple.
The change would cost the game nothing and would save some serious pain. Touch-up icing, Sharks veteran Curtis Brown was saying last night, "is not really a play that affects the outcome of a game. Except when someone gets hurt."
Bruins forward Marco Sturm once broke his leg chasing after a puck on an icing play. Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis almost had his career ended the same way. For icing!
"It's just one of those things that tell you that there should be automatic icing," Sharks coach Ron Wilson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after the game. "I guess that's a play where the fans want to see a big car wreck like that."
No. Fans don't want that. Maybe many of them do want to see a heavyweight bout such as when Derek Boogaard and Jody Shelley traded haymakers in Wednesday's game, but what hockey fan wants to see someone go out on a stretcher? If you do, the NHL shouldn't want your money.
There's enough gratuitous violence in hockey. Just ask Steve Moore. Ask Paul Kariya. And there are enough accidents, too. But these icing injuries can be so easily avoided. Commissioner Gary Bettman or his whip-cracker Colin Campbell should get together with Players Association head Paul Kelly. Call a meeting. Get this rule passed. Today. Forget the usual protocol. Call it extenuating circumstances. Call it common sense.