Icing In Hockey
Although hockey, at its core, is a simple game that involves trying to get a puck into the other team’s net, there are quite a few rules and terms that can be confusing to beginners. One of these is icing. What makes this even more confusing is that there are a few types of icing: Regular icing, hybrid icing, and no-touch icing.
Icing in hockey is when a player shoots the puck across the centerline and over the other team’s goal line, and a defensive player stops the puck before entering the net. A no-touch icing rule means that icing is called automatically after the puck crosses the goal line.
If you are confused about what icing is, this article is for you. We will explain what icing is, why it was implemented, and why the linesmen sometimes call icing instead of it automatically happening. We will also explain the difference between icing and offsides.
Icing is when a player shoots the puck from his side of the rink across the other team’s goal line. For icing to be called, the player has to shoot the puck across both the red center line and the other team’s goal line. If the player is standing on the other side of the red centerline (not the side where his team’s goalie is standing), it is not icing; the puck must cross both lines.
Also, icing occurs when the puck crosses the goal line, and a goal is not scored. If a goal is scored or the goalie plays the puck, it is not icing. It must cross the goal line and be played by a defensive member other than the goalie without entering the net.
When icing occurs, a stoppage occurs, and a face-off will happen in the zone of the team that caused the icing infraction.
If you want to see charts explaining what icing in the game of hockey is and some examples of icing in real life hockey games, watch this short YouTube video:
Icing is not considered a penalty. However, it will lead to a face-off in the offending team’s zone (the team that sent the puck across the red center line and over the goal line of the other team). While not on the penalty level, it is an infraction that can lead to severe consequences, as the other team now has a good chance of winning that face-off and maybe scoring.
The “icing rule” was created to prevent teams from shooting the puck down the centerline to gain time at the end of a game. The icing rule dates back to 1937; that is when it was first introduced in the NHL.
Without an icing rule, winning teams can try to waste time at the end of a game by shooting the puck across the centerline to buy time. Although this would maintain the winning team’s lead, it would make the game relatively uninteresting to fans watching. Who wants to see a team wasting time just to maintain their lead without any real action happening?
The icing rule was meant to discourage teams from doing this. Instead, they would have to get the puck across the center line before shooting it into the other team’s zone.
Hybrid icing is a modification of the icing rule that was put into place to prevent collisions on the field. We mentioned that icing occurs when a defensive player touches the puck after crossing the center line and the goal line.
However, what happens if an offensive player gets to that puck first? Icing would not occur. When an icing situation occurred, offensive players would try to get to the puck before defensive players to prevent an icing call. This could result in collisions.
The NHL and many other leagues currently practice hybrid icing. The linesmen will decide as to whether each situation involves icing or not. Sometimes, it is crystal clear, but it is up to the linesmen to decide at other times.
To prevent collisions in possible icings, the linesmen will automatically call it icing if the defensive team is closer than the offensive team. On the other hand, if the offensive player is clearly closer than the defensive player and will get to the puck first, icing is automatically waived, and icing does not happen. The game will continue as before, without any face-off.
There are times, however, when it is not obvious who will get to the puck first. In that case, the linesmen may allow a race to occur. The linesmen may also decide to make a call and stop the race to prevent collisions and injury. Ultimately, the decision is theirs.
Earlier in this article, we said that icing only occurs when a defensive player from the other team, who is not a goalie, stops the puck before a goal is declared. However, to prevent a race to the puck and collisions that can occur from such races, many leagues have implemented no-touch icing.
No-touch icing means that as soon as the puck crosses the goal line (after it has also crossed the red centerline), icing happens. In other words, it is automatic; there is no need for a defensive player to touch the puck at all.
The enforcement of icing depends on the league. As mentioned, the NHL currently enforces what is known as hybrid icing. As we saw, hybrid icing means that sometimes, icing will not be called (for example, if it’s clear that an offensive player will get there before a defensive player).
A linesman may also decide not to call icing if a defensive player could have reached the puck before reaching the goal line but did not bother to do so. In that case, icing does not happen, and the defensive team does not get to have a face-off in the offending team’s zone.
The reason for this is simple. If such a situation would still be called icing, defensive players would allow the puck to move across the surface and the goal line without doing anything to get an icing call and a face-off in the other side’s zone. They ensured that such a situation would not call for icing, and it forces defensemen to try to get the puck back in play and continue with the game.
Also, if a team is short one player due to a penalty, icing is not enforced, and the short team is allowed to shoot the puck across both lines without any repercussions.
Sometimes an icing call may be beneficial for the offensive team as it can give a quick break from the play while everyone gets set up for the new face-off. This can help when the line has been on for a while and is starting to get tired. You may also want to read our article on why hockey players have short shifts to see why this matters.
In this section, we will go over some examples of what would be considered icing and what would not be considered icing.
It is considered icing if:
- An offensive player shot the puck across the ice surface from behind the center line, past both the center line and the goal line. If a defensive player other than the goalie touches it after it has wholly crossed the goal line, but before it ends up in the net, it is considered icing.
- In the case of no-touch icing, it is icing if the puck crossed both the center line and the goal line. In that case, it is icing as soon as the puck entirely crosses the goal line.
- In the case of hybrid icing, it is icing as soon as the puck crosses the goal line (after having already crossed the centerline), on the condition that it is clear that someone from the defending team (not the goalie) would have stopped it first. In that case, the defensive player does not have to touch the puck for the icing to happen.
It is not considered icing if:
- The offensive player shot the puck from in front of the center line. In other words, if an offensive player was standing in the half of the defensive team and shot the puck across only the blue line and the goal line (without the puck crossing the center line first).
- If the offensive player’s team is shorthanded, and they shot the puck from behind the centerline, across both the center line and the goal line. It is not icing if the team is missing a player.
- If the offensive player shot the puck across the center line and the goal line, but hybrid icing is the rule, and an offensive player will get to the puck before a defensive player.
- The puck crosses the center line and almost crosses the goal line, but is first stopped by a defensive player or hits a defensive player before crossing the goal line and never actually crosses the goal line.
- A defensive player other than the goalie could have stopped the puck before it crossed the goal line after it had already crossed the center line, but instead decided to let it move across the goal line. As mentioned, doing that will forfeit an icing call.
- A defensive player touches the puck after it crosses the center line, but it continues going and crosses the goal line. For icing to happen, the puck has to cross both lines without being touched or stopped.
- The puck enters the net. If the puck crosses both lines and is not touched between the center line and the goal line but then enters the net and a goal is scored, no infraction happens, and no icing related face-off will occur. Instead, the offensive team will have scored a goal.
- An official determines that it was an attempted pass. If an official determines that the player who shot the puck did not intend to cross the goal line but instead wanted to pass it, an official may decide to waive the icing call and allow the game to proceed as usual.
The NHL currently does not practice no-touch icing. However, it is the standard in many international, including European, leagues. According to an opinion piece, however, the NHL should implement no-touch icing right now.
Hybrid icing is a solution that the NHL reached to compromise between regular icing and no-touch icing, but according to Nashville General Manager David Poile, the situations in which hybrid icing would allow for scoring opportunities are too few and far between. Instead, the NHL should implement no-touch icing to prevent collisions and ensure the safety of NHL players.
Avoiding an icing infraction is pretty simple. Simply make sure only to shoot the puck if you are already over the centerline. Otherwise, get the puck over the centerline before shooting it towards the defending side’s goal line.
We’ve also written another article describing some bad habits in hockey that should be avoided, which is worth reading.
You can use icing as a defensive strategy if the other team shoots the puck across both the center line and the goal line if regular icing is the rule (as opposed to no-touch icing). By stopping the puck after it crosses the goal line, you can get a face-off in the other side’s zone.
Icing and offsides are sometimes confused with each other. However, they are very different rules and situations. The only similarity between them is that both result in a face-off. However, that face-off may not necessarily occur in the same place.
Icing is when the offensive player is standing behind the center line and shoots the puck from behind the center line and across the ice surface, crossing both the center line and the goal line.
Offsides are different. Offside is when the offensive player is standing in the offensive zone (across the blue line), and the puck is behind the blue line (not in the offensive zone). If another offensive player then plays the puck and moves it into the offensive zone while the other player is already there, it is considered an offside.
The offensive player who moves the puck into the offensive zone must move the puck into the offensive zone before crossing over the blue line themselves. The position of the player’s skates is what will determine whether offside happens or not. If the player has only one foot in the offensive zone or is still touching the blue line, it is not considered an offside.
The player’s hockey stick’s position has no bearing on whether a play is considered an offside or not. Even if the hockey stick is not in the offensive zone, it is offside if the player is completely standing in the offensive zone. The puck has to cross the blue line and enter the offensive zone entirely, with the player already there, for it to be considered an offside.
An exception to the offside rule is if the offensive player in the offensive zone already had control of the puck before entering the offensive zone. In that case, it is not considered an offside.
When an offside occurs, all play will stop, and a face-off takes place. This face-off happens in the nearest neutral zone face-off spot. If the offside was determined to be intentional by an official, the face-off would take place in the offending team’s defensive zone. That is the only similarity between an offside and icing. Otherwise, they are entirely different rules.
Preventing offsides is not tricky. Just make sure the puck has wholly crossed the blue line and is entirely in the offensive zone before playing it if you are already in the offensive zone. The puck should proceed the player, not the other way around.
If the puck crossed the blue line before both of the offensive player’s skates did, it would not be offside. This is why offsides can sometimes be confusing and why refereeing can be a tough job. It can sometimes be tough to ascertain whether the puck crossed first or whether the player’s skates cross first.
What you might see some professional players do is straddle the blue line, with only one foot placed in the offensive zone. This is a common trick to allow players to play the puck before it crosses the blue line but without incurring an offside infraction. These players must be careful to keep their foot from crossing the blue line before the puck does.
You will also often see professional players pass the puck across the blue line to a teammate who is timing himself not to cross the line before the puck.
Icing is not that difficult to understand after all. If you are playing hockey in a league that enforces icing (either regular icing, no-touch icing, or hybrid icing), make sure to get the puck across the center line before shooting it towards the other side’s goal line.
If the team you are playing against shoots the puck from behind the centerline, and regular icing is the rule in your league, stop the puck after crossing the goal line. This will lead to an icing call and allow for a face-off in the other side’s zone, potentially making it easier to score a goal.
- Wikipedia: Icing
- Hockey Monkey: Icing Rule Explained
- The Hockey Writers: Icing Hockey - The Rules
- Her Sports Corner: What Is Icing In Hockey
- Pure Hockey: What Is Icing In Hockey
- Going Bar Down: What Is Icing In Hockey
- Hockey Answered: What Is Icing In Hockey
- Hockey Monkey: What is Offsides in Hockey? Learn Hockey’s Offsides Rule
- USA Hockey Rulebook: Rule 630 | Offsides
- Hockey Answered: What are offsides in hockey? (with pictures)