Saturday, October 1, 2011
Former Princeton Tiger Taylor Fedun Injured on Icing Play
Former Princeton defenseman Taylor Fedun was hospitalized with a broken right leg suffered on Friday night in a preseason NHL game between Edmonton and Minnesota.
Fedun, who patrolled the Princeton blueline from 2007 to 2011, was racing back to touch up a puck for icing at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. when he got tangled up with former University of Michigan and current Minnesota Wild forward Eric Nystrom, who was reaching in with his stick to try and get the puck. Fedun, who signed as a free agent with his hometown Edmonton Oilers earlier this year, went awkwardly into the endboards, was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and will now have to recover from a major broken bone.
I saw Fedun play many times at Hobey Baker Rink when I covered Princeton for USCHO.com, and he was a steady, exciting player who always seemed to score key goals. Hockey fans, coaches, players and pundits alike have been up in arms about his injury last night being the latest evidence for introducing no-touch icing to the NHL level.
Count me among them.
If the NHL wants to speed up its game, this is one way to help that along. More importantly, it will help to prevent injuries like the one suffered by Fedun, who now may need a metal rod in his leg and who may never completely recover from this incident.
That's not to say I blame Nystrom for what happened. I knew his dad, former New York Islanders star Bob Nystrom, from when I interned with the NHL 17 years ago and he helped me with some on-ice clinics. I also watched him many times on TV and in person as a player when I was growing up, and he was tough but clean. His son has likewise never struck me as a dirty player; and I believe Eric Nystrom, who has played almost 300 career NHL games, was simply going for the puck and had no intent to injure Fedun last night. He's still being vilified for what happened, though, rightly or wrongly:
There are players in the game who wouldn't bat an eye about doing such a thing to someone else in such a situation. If they saw another player ahead of them in a race for the puck on an icing, some players wouldn't hesitate to give the other player a not-so-little nudge into the boards, whether or not that player could get his arms up in time to shield himself - and the boards and the puck are no one's friends in certain instances.
There's been enough questionable and even over-the-line happenings occurring in the NHL preseason this fall, such as former University of Wisconsin and current Detroit Red Wing defenseman Brendan Smith recently earning a five-game suspension for a shoulder to the head of former Boston College and current Chicago Blackhawk forward Ben Smith. (Repercussions from the 2010 NCAA title game in Detroit? Doubt it.)
The NHL still has to do more policing of high hits, but there's enough races that can be contested during the course of a modern professional hockey game to keep the fans interested. Icings don't need to be one of those races anymore.