Friday, March 28, 2008

Does The CBA Allow It?

On March 19th, it a game in San Jose, Kurtis Foster of the Minnesota Wild broke his left leg in a race for a puck on a delayed icing call. This has sparked debate about whether or not the NHL should institute no touch icing where icing is called whenever the puck is shot down the ice in an icing situation immediately instead of when a defensive player recovers it. The idea is that this would save a few races for relatively meaningless loose pucks which often can result in big hits that sometimes cause injury. Although the NHL GMs have shot down this proposal, I would support it. It seems the GMs would rather spend their time trying to figure out how to increase scoring instead.

In the game, Foster and Torrey Mitchell of the San Jose Sharks raced down the ice for the loose puck and Mitchell took Foster into the boards breaking his leg (for the record San Jose won the game 4-3 in a shootout).

It is reported on a San Jose message board (assist to Kukla's Korner for pointing out this story) that Minnesota flew in Foster's fiance while he was still being treated in the hospital in San Jose. That is a classy move, but is it legal under the CBA?

The CBA says that all benefits to players must be spelled out in their contract (with the exception of "normal hockey practises"). This meant that the Montreal Canadiens could not fly player's families to Florida for Christmas even though the Habs were in the midst of a road trip and were going to play there after the holiday. At the same time, road trips with mothers or fathers of players are considered a "normal hockey practise" and are allowed. Is it a normal hockey practise to fly out families to see injured players when they get hurt on a road trip? It rarely happens that an injured player cannot get home before surgery or an injury rehab, so I would argue this is not a normal situation. The mere presence of a message board post outlining the story and calling the team classy for doing it shows that it's not normally done. I think this situation is one that technically the CBA does not allow (though we likely won't see a major issue made about it because it makes the NHL look stupid). How is flying family to San Jose to see an injured player different from flying families to Florida, when the team will already be there? Neither is spelled out in a standard player contract.

The problem is that the CBA overlegislates the NHL. Things would be better with fewer restrictions on what teams can and cannot do in the unique situations like this that come up during a season. Flying Kurtis Foster's fiance out is a good thing for Minnesota to do, but my reading of the CBA says it should not be allowed (am I right? I think the debate comes down to whether or not this is a "standard hockey practise"). It certainly should be allowed, but as the rules are written I think it isn't. That said, it appears clear that nobody is going to make a big stink about Minnesota doing the right thing regardless of what the CBA says.

1) Seem to recall that one of the rules they changed after the lockout was a 'liberalization' of the icing rules. That if the puck was 'iced' due to an attempted pass that the icing would be waved off, thereby reducing the number of such calls.
2) Other than in the first few games 2 1/2 years ago, haven't seen this 'rule' enforced at all. Its back to the way it was pre-lock out.
3) It would seem that fewer whistles would be better, but the problem is probably giving linesman to need to make judgement calls of what was an attempted pass and what wasn't? That's our only issue with the no-touch icing rule; more whistles.
4) As for the CBA not allowing team paid family vacations and allowing father/mother road trips, etc. Agree that it seems arbitrary, but a very minor/insignificant issue.
I don't really like the idea of no-touch icing, but, I could live with it (As i live with the EVIL shoot-out [barf!]) IF...and thats a BIG if; the NHL doesnt automatically call EVERY icing regardless; that is to say, if there's a defensive side player who is close enough to touch the puck, then the icing should be void and its anyone's puck.....In European (AKA international rules [barf again])hockey, you often see defensemen stop skating in order to get a rather questionable icing call (When he could easily have taken the puck up himself), we don't need that in the NHL!If the player should have been able to reach the puck, then the icing should be nullified as it is now...I could LIVE with no-touch icing, if that were the case, otherwise, NO.
Daryl Reaugh of the Dallas Stars broadcast team has an interesting take on icing here.

He advocates getting rid of icing entirely. Since goalies are getting better and better at playing the puck, just let teams shoot it down the ice and let the goalie fire it back down their throats. You would need to get rid of the "Holy Trapezoid" of course.

I'm not quite sure he's considered all the ramifications, but it's an idea worth thinking about.
Mojo....I'll make this simple...on the idea of taking icing out completely.....NO!
I can barely stand the idea of no touch icing as it is; and I certainly don't advocate taking out something thats been in the game since the beginning!
To further elaborate, if you take out icing completely, you no longer have hockey, but, pond shinny (and do we start giving the puck to the team sho gets scored on after "giving" them centre ice and go til the first 10 goals, while we're at it?)....oh, and no "raisies"!!
In our league, icing is no-touch because of the possibility of injuries. In order to cut down on the whistles under this system, the refs waive icing if defenders stop pursuing, or if the goalie leaves the crease to play the puck. (We don't have trapezoids, thank goodness.)

One other thing we do that I think would be a reasonable compromise to Reaugh's suggestion: icing is from the defensive zone, and not from the defensive half of the rink. The idea is to penalize teams that can't get out of their own zone to break up the attack.

I can see objections to this system - it would be much easier for teams to gain neutral ice and hammer the puck away, get line changes, and meet the attack with fresh players. It could make the game very boring if one team held the vast majority of possession, cutting down on end-to-end rushes. The thing is that teams do this anyway, only by gaining the center line instead of the blue line.

I think that it wouldn't necessarily make things too different. If you get out of your own end, you ought to be able to give away possession if that's what you really want to do, and try to get it back with a fresh set of skaters. In a way, it doesn't slow the game down as much (if at all) because the puck remains in play.

I would make two other changes (whether or not the icing line were moved) - I would ditch the trapezoid, and I would move the blue lines out from the nets about five feet, increasing the attacking zone.
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I believe the intent of the blog was not to debate no touch icing but the CBA.

I disagree with your comparing the flying the fiance to an injured player to the flying of families because, as you state,"It rarely happens that an injured player cannot get home before surgery or an injury rehab, so I would argue this is not a normal situation." Since it is not a normal situation there is not an established "normal hockey practise" to compare it to nor can the compassionate act be compared to the normal practise of not flying flying families to Florida, which would, to me, be gratuituous.

So I think Minnesota's compassionate act may now be considered "normal hockey practise" and is onside with the CBA.
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