At the request of the NHL, the American Hockey League is testing “hybrid icing” the first five weeks of the season.
If hybrid icing was in effect last year, Barons defenseman Taylor Fedun probably would have made his debut with the Edmonton Oilers or least started his pro career in Oklahoma City.
Instead, Fedun (pronounced feh-doon) missed the entire season after he suffered a shattered femur last year in an NHL preseason game. In an attempt to beat Fedun to the puck, Minnesota's Eric Nystrom placed his stick between Fedun's skates near the end boards.
“It was terrifying at the time,” Fedun said. “I had never broken a bone in my body up to that point. (My femur) kind of exploded into a bunch of different pieces.”
Fedun had a titanium rod and four screws placed in his right leg. Two screws were placed near his hip. Two other screws were placed near his knee. He spent a year rehabilitating the injury.
Minnesota's Kurtis Foster suffered a similar injury four years ago on a similar play, which is why hockey officials are studying a rule used by the NCAA.
Under current NHL icing rules, players race for the puck to the end boards, sometimes leading to collisions and potentially catastrophic injuries. If the defenseman touches the puck first, it's icing. If the forward touches the puck first, play continues.
The hybrid rule has a linesman make a judgment call as to who would win the race for the puck at the offensive faceoff zone dots.
“Injuries that occur from touch-icing plays can be pretty bad injuries,” said Fedun, who experienced hybrid icing while at Princeton. “If you institute the hybrid rule, I think you would still get a lot of the benefits but minimize the high-velocity impact into the boards.”
NHL officials have discussed hybrid icing the past six years. For the first time they're seriously considering implementing the change after general managers endorsed the rule last spring.
“It's worked out pretty well,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “I think guys are grasping the concept. If we can eliminate risk and have guys not get injured, I'm all for it.”
The AHL is testing hybrid icing until Nov. 19, when a decision will be made whether to continue the experiment. Some say the rule might need tweaking. But most agree it's a common sense change similar to requiring players to wear helmets.
“So far it's been good,” said Barons winger Jordan Eberle. “It puts a lot of responsibility on the refs. You want to protect the guys. It's just one of those tough rules that every sport has. They're doing a good job of trying it down here first. If it has success maybe we can move it to the NHL.”
Fedun hoped to make the Oilers' roster out of training camp. Instead, Fedun spent his first year out of college rehabilitating a gruesome injury while living with his parents in Edmonton. It was five months before he skated. His first trip on the ice was at a public rink. The comeback was tedious, but he built back his leg strength.
“It was pretty bad,” Nelson said. “He's made so many positive strides. For him to just be skating is pretty remarkable. But he feels good. He's not shying away from the corners. He's playing just as aggressive. His foot speed just needs to get a little bit quicker. It will.”
If the NHL adopts hybrid icing, maybe it could call it the “Fedun Rule.”
“I wouldn't mind that,” Fedun said. “It's definitely something I hope they take a serious look at. If you let it play out, would there be a good scoring chance? I'd say 99 times out of 100 probably not. We need to error on the side of health and safety of the players.”