Sunday, April 15, 2007

No-touch icing's eternal advocate

It's the second-period intermission of the Washington Capitals' final game of the year, and I'm about to make my way from the Verizon Center press box down to the suite level.

Stepping into the service elevator on the top floor, I'm joined by Kurt Kehl and Pat Peake, who are in the midst of what's become a familiar conversation for the former Cap.

"I get asked about it all the time. Three times already since I've been in town," Peake says. "Back home in Michigan, they see the video — Don Cherry always plays it when he talks about changing the rule."

Now 33 and an employee of Newport Sports Management in the Detroit area, Peake has become the poster boy for an obscure but heavily debated rule change, one that has been adopted at just about every level of hockey — save for the NHL.

A superstar in junior hockey — he was named the Canadian Hockey League player of the year in 1993 — Peake was chasing down a puck, trying to beat an icing call during the 1996 playoffs when he tripped and collided feet first with the end boards, shattering his right heel. Doctors claimed they had seen an injury of similar severity only in construction workers who had fallen from high rises.

Peake would attempt numerous comebacks over the next two seasons, playing in a total of eight professional games while battling continued pain in his rebuilt heel. In his final game, the only one he would play in the 1997-98 season, he tore several tendons in his ankle in that same troubled foot.

He retired from hockey the following fall at age 25, and altogether has had more than 10 operations on his heel.

"What I'd really like to know is what the percentage is for plays like that," Peake says as we walk down the suite level's deserted hallway. "How many times does one of those chases result in a play?

"That's what I'd like to know. Because to me it just makes sense that they would put no-touch icing in."

Kehl, the Caps' communications VP, and I offer a few words in agreement.

"They'll put it in," I say. "It's already in junior hockey."

Peake stops outside of the Capitals alumni suite, where Rod Langway and various other former greats are awaiting the third period.

"Nice to meet you," he says, shaking my hand.

"Nice to meet you, Pat."
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9 Comments:

At 2:17 AM, April 15, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

By not implementing the no touch icing the NHL decision makers are just providing us with more evidence of their incompetence.

I am willing to bet that some of the same people that want to keep the touch icing rule in place supposedly because it is exciting for fans (though not this one) and not caring about all the star players that get injured want to take fighting out of hockey because a small number of 4th line goons got injured, and not caring about the excitement a fight brings fans.

 
At 2:34 AM, April 15, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:36 AM, April 15, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

What is the compelling reason for not implementing the rule? Who's an outspoken advocate for leaving things how they are?

I remember meeting Pat Peake down at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit when he used to play for the Detroit Ambassadors - they did an autograph signing session afterwards... Everyone used to talk about where he was headed in the NHL, I've still got his autograph somewhere... It's a shame.

 
At 1:01 PM, April 15, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

The only downside to the no-touch icing is when an opposing player is a stride away from the puck, but the puck crosses the line so the whistle goes, killing the play.

But there are huge upsides that more than balance it out.

In my imagined, perfect world (where I spend more and more time every day), we implement the no-touch icing, but give the linesman authority to wave it off if the attacking player is ahead of the defenseman. It's a judgement call, open to mistake, but better than guys getting killed in today's method.

 
At 2:47 PM, April 15, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

There are a number of ways you could implement it. Certainly giving linemen the discretion to waive off the icing if no one on the defending team is close is one method. Or, if you wanted to maintain he race (which advocates for the current system say is exciting) but reduce the number and severity of the injuries you could have it as a race to the goal line, not to touch the puck. This way the two players won't necessarilly be racing to the exact same location nor will the players have to worry about touching the puck and can focus more on protecting themselves.

 
At 8:56 PM, April 15, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I am willing to bet that some of the same people that want to keep the touch icing rule in place supposedly because it is exciting for fans (though not this one) and not caring about all the star players that get injured want to take fighting out of hockey because a small number of 4th line goons got injured, and not caring about the excitement a fight brings fans.

Not this one. To me, there's nothing exciting about the race for the puck. Most times, the race is just to touch it, and not to make any sort of play on it. There's more chance of something exciting happening on the ensuing face off after the icing.

 
At 2:24 AM, April 16, 2007, Anonymous jeffadams#2 said...

Yes p@,

This is a rule that demands a change.

 
At 9:36 AM, April 16, 2007, Anonymous Eric said...

"There are a number of ways you could implement it. Certainly giving linemen the discretion to waive off the icing if no one on the defending team is close is one method."

The USAH league I play in uses a similar method; I play D, and I've had refs warn me that if I don't go after the puck as if it won't be icing, they'll waive it off. (I know it's not technically USAH rules, but then we use tag-up offsides, too. :-P)

 
At 10:22 AM, April 16, 2007, Blogger Hockey Amor said...

Pat Peake was exactly the type of slick passign centerman the Caps need right now. Let's implement automatic icing once and for all.

 

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