Don Cherry’s not impressed with the NHL’s new hybrid icing rule.
The Hockey Night in Canada commentator spoke on Tuesday during the first intermission of the Montreal Canadiens’ home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, saying that the rule won’t really get tested until the playoffs.
The new rule has players racing for the puck to an imaginary line across the faceoff dots to trigger icing instead of the end boards. The move is aimed to reduce injuries that happen when players make contact against the boards at top speed.
“If there’s no chance at all of a guy getting the puck, the referee’s going to blow the whistle,” said Cherry during his Coach’s Corner segment, pointing out how the rule may confuse players. “If the defenceman is way ahead, and there’s no chance of winning the race, but if there’s a chance they are racing, and they’re going 90 miles an hour, and there’s a chance they’re going to get hurt, they’re going to let it go if the forwards a little bit in front.”
Cherry then showed a clip of Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane looking at an official, visibly confused, after a close hybrid icing call in the pre-season.
“How are the guys going to know what the referee is thinking in the back?” said Cherry. “They’re so confused, they don’t know what’s going on.”
The American Hockey League experimented with the rule last season during the NHL’s lockout, but it was not used during the minor league’s playoffs.
“But you know what, I’m going to tell you folks, don’t worry about a thing, because you know why, they’re just going to let it go, and what’s going to happen? They’re just going to call icing, the forwards won’t try, or anything like that,” said Cherry.
“Wait until the playoffs, those guys will die to get that puck, and that’s when guys are going to get hurt.”
Cherry then prompted co-host Ron MacLean, who acknowledged that NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan had also said he wanted the AHL to test hybrid icing in the post-season.
Later in Cherry’s segment, he criticized Sabres enforcer John Scott for starting a fight with Leafs star Phil Kessel in Toronto’s 5-3 pre-season victory over Buffalo on Sept. 22.