Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 81, Rules 81 and 82

The game: Pittsburgh vs. Washington, Portland Winterhawks vs. Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL).

Why I chose them: Dude, it's Ovechkin vs. Crosby. Duh. Ditto for the Hawks vs. the Birds.

The quirk: Portland beat Seattle by the same score (6- 3) on Friday and Saturday. Onward to Tri-City Americans on Wednesday. Repeat after me: Tri-City Americans are TOAST.

Future NHL stars you should pay attention to now: The Nino-Johansen-Ross line. We are privileged in Portland to have not only all three of these very special players on our team, but all in one line to boot. They are all draft eligible this year and just returned from the NHL prospects game. If you live in Portland, check it out while you can. You won't be disappointed. I may not have known what icing was (see below), but I do know beauty when I see it.

Why: Check out's archives or the Winterhawks' web site for Nino's one-handed breakaway goal from the prospects game, where he threw his glove off right before he scored with the greatest of ease. It's like watching women in the mall when they hand the purse to their husband and go "here honey, hold my purse while I try this on." Only in this case it was like "here, hold my glove while I go score."

The rule: Section 10, Game Flow. Rule 81, Icing. Rule 82, Line Changes.

Number of sections in the rules: 6 (Rule 81). 3 (Rule 82).

Ok, here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for. Here's what I thought icing was: When players moving at a high speed stop in such a way that they pile up snow on the puck so play has to be stopped. Really. Don't ask me where I got the idea...I don't even know. There. I said it. Now I feel better. Go ahead roll off the couch laughing. I'll wait.

So, here's what it really is: 81.1, Icing. For the purpose of this rule, the red center line shall divide the ice into halves. Should any player of a team, equal or superior in numerical strength (power-play) to the opposing team, shoot, bat or deflect the puck from his own half of the ice beyond the goal line of the opposing team, play shall be stopped. For the purpose of deflected pucks, this only applies when the puck was originally propelled down the ice by the offending team. For the purpose of this rule, the point of last contact with the puck by the team in possession shall be used to determine whether icing has occurred or not. As such, the team in possession must "gain the line" in order for the icing to be nullified. "Gaining the line" shall mean that the puck, while on the player's stick (not the player's skate) must make contact with the center red line in order to nullify a potential icing.

Line change, 82.1. Following the stoppage of play, the visiting team shall promptly place a line-up on the ice ready for play and no substitution shall be made from that time until play has resumed. The home team may then make any desired substitution except in cases following in icing, which does not result in the delay of the game. In case you think the visitors get the advantage by going first: the visiting team gets five seconds to make their line change and the home team gets eight seconds.

My favorite highlights: From the second half of 81.1, Icing. For the purpose of interpretation of the rule, "icing the puck" is completed the instant the puck is touched first by a defending player (other than the goalkeeper) after it has crossed the goal line and if in the action of so touching the puck, it is knocked or deflected into the net, it is no goal. Icing is not permitted when you are short-handed. It's also waved off if the linesman thinks a player on the opposing team could have played the puck before it crossed the goal line.

This I have to see: 81.3, Goalkeeper. If, in the opinion of the Linesman, the goalkeeper feigns playing the puck, or skates in the direction of the puck on an icing at any time, the potential icing shall not be called and play shall continue.

Just say no: 81.5, No Icing. If the puck touches any part of a player of the opposing side, including his skates or his stick, or if it touches any part of the opposing team's goalkeeper, including his skates or his stick, at any time before or after crossing the goal line, it shall not be considered icing.

The final score: Washington 5, Pittsburgh 4 in OT.

Morals of the story:

The game: If you're reading this and have free time on your hands, could someone please explain to me how a goaltender feigns playing the puck? A YouTube video will do. This is right up there with refs drawing an imaginary line to measure sticks for regulation length and width. But I see now why teams ice the puck and why the NHL made it a rule - it's a delay tactic or a sheer defensive move against a team that's stronger. So, at least I was right about the delay part.

Also, I have decided to coin what I call a "hockey minute." Three seconds isn't a lot to you and me, but to the home team it's enough to see who's out on the opposing team's line change so you can put the right one out to match them.

And it's more than enough to score a goal. Like here in Portland at this year's Dash for Cash. People were already leaving their seats because we were down by one to Seattle with less than 2 seconds to go. But thanks to a timekeeping-related detail, we got a second or so put back on the clock and Chris Francis tipped in the game-tying goal on a face-off. It was also a hat trick for him, and he scored the winning shoot-out goal. Now you see why we've beaten Seattle in 10 straight games: after that, anything is possible. And anything can happen in a hockey minute.

Life: There's one huge way in which we ice the puck in life: we go into debt to pay for things we can't afford right now. We buy it with plastic or a loan and pay it off later. We created our own monster by allowing cultural values to prevail that equate material worth with self-worth. We don't feel accomplished or important if we're not carrying the latest electronic toy or installing the fancy GPS/coffee-maker in our $80,000 Lexus. And God help you if you still listen to CDs on a Walkman. Here's the thing: I listen to CDs on a Walkman, I wouldn't know how to use the camera on my cell phone if you put a gun to my head, and I only just this past year bought a flat-screen TV. I couldn't care less about owning a lot of material things and my idea of financial freedom is not owing anyone anything.

I shouldn't be that hard to spot around Portland: if you see a geeky 40-something woman on the treadmill at 24-Hour Fitness with a Walkman and huge honkin' earphones watching the NHL highlights on ESPN, it's a good bet it's me.

Bottom line: Icing the puck is a penalty for a reason in hockey and it should be penalized in life to save us from ourselves. Better yet, prevent yourself from committing the foul in the first place. Next time you're tempted to buy a large piece of technology you probably don't need on a credit card with 15 percent interest, stop by the downtown 24-Hour Fitness or ping this blog. I'll be happy to talk you off the ledge.

Next up on 2/9: Section 10, Game Flow. Rule 83, Off-side. Rule 84, Overtime.

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