What is icing in hockey?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 29, 2024

Introduction to Icing

Icing is a fundamental rule in the sport of ice hockey, crucial for maintaining the flow and fairness of the game. Despite its simplicity, the rule can be somewhat confusing for newcomers or even seasoned fans who might not be familiar with its nuances. In essence, icing occurs when a player shoots the puck across both the center red line and the opposing team's goal line without the puck being touched by another player, leading to a stoppage in play.

The Basics of Icing


Icing is called when the puck is propelled from behind the center red line past the opposing team's goal line. This rule prevents teams from simply clearing the puck the length of the ice to relieve pressure, promoting more strategic play.


Certain situations exempt a play from being called for icing:

- Penalty Killing: When a team is shorthanded due to a penalty, they are allowed to ice the puck without being penalized.

- Touched Puck: If the puck touches any player, including the goaltender, before crossing the goal line.

- Faceoff Wins: If a team wins a faceoff and the puck is immediately sent down the ice, it is not considered icing.

Types of Icing

Touch Icing

In "touch icing," the play is stopped only if a defending player reaches the puck first after it crosses the goal line. This type of icing can lead to high-speed chases and potential collisions, posing a risk of injury.

No-Touch Icing

"No-touch icing" automatically stops the play as soon as the puck crosses the goal line. This reduces the risk of dangerous collisions but can sometimes halt the game prematurely.

Hybrid Icing

"Hybrid icing" is a blend of the previous two types. The linesman makes a judgment call based on which player would reach the puck first. If it appears a defending player will win the race, icing is called; if the attacking player is likely to reach it first, play continues.

Historical Evolution

The icing rule has evolved over time to balance safety and gameplay:

- 1937: The NHL introduced icing to prevent teams from endlessly sending the puck down the ice.

- 1951: The rule was modified to allow penalty-killing teams to ice the puck.

- 2013: The NHL adopted hybrid icing to reduce injuries while maintaining the competitive aspect of the game.

Impact on Game Strategy

Icing significantly influences how teams approach both offense and defense:

- Defensive Strategy: Teams under pressure in their defensive zone might consider icing the puck to reset the play, but they risk a faceoff in their own zone.

- Offensive Strategy: Coaches may instruct players to avoid icing, especially in close games, to maintain offensive pressure and prevent stoppages.

Consequences of Icing

When icing is called, several consequences follow:

- Faceoff Location: The ensuing faceoff occurs in the offending team's defensive zone, often leading to scoring chances for the opponent.

- Line Change Restrictions: The offending team is not allowed to make a line change, forcing tired players to remain on the ice.

Rules and Enforcement

Linesmen's Role

Linesmen are responsible for calling icing infractions. They must quickly judge the puck's trajectory, player positions, and whether any exceptions apply.

Video Review

In some leagues, video review can be used to verify icing calls, ensuring accuracy and fairness, though it is less common compared to other reviewable plays like goals or offside.

Common Misconceptions

Several misconceptions about icing persist among fans:

- Icing and Offside: Icing is often confused with offside, but the two rules govern different aspects of play. Offside occurs when an attacking player enters the offensive zone before the puck.

- Automatic Penalty: Icing is not a penalty but a violation that results in a faceoff and line change restrictions.

- Goaltender Involvement: If a goaltender leaves the crease and touches the puck, icing is negated, leading some to mistakenly believe goaltenders can always prevent icing calls.

Notable Icing Moments in History

Icing has played a role in several memorable hockey moments:

- 1972 Summit Series: In Game 8, Team Canada iced the puck multiple times to relieve pressure against the Soviet Union, leading to tense moments and strategic adjustments.

- 2010 Winter Olympics: In the gold medal game, the USA iced the puck in the final moments of regulation, leading to a critical faceoff and eventually Sidney Crosby's "Golden Goal" for Canada.

Icing in International Play

International hockey, governed by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), has its own nuances regarding icing:

- Automatic Icing: Most international leagues use automatic icing, stopping play immediately when the puck crosses the goal line.

- Hybrid Icing Adoption: Some international tournaments have adopted hybrid icing to align more closely with NHL rules.

Training and Coaching Perspectives

Coaches at all levels teach players to understand and avoid icing:

- Youth Hockey: Young players learn the importance of puck control and strategic dumping to minimize icing calls.

- Professional Levels: Advanced strategies include using bank passes off the boards and precise dump-ins to avoid icing while maintaining offensive pressure.

Technology and Icing

Modern technology aids in understanding and enforcing icing:

- Puck Tracking: Advanced puck-tracking systems can help officials and coaches analyze icing scenarios in real time.

- Data Analytics: Teams use data analytics to study icing patterns and adjust strategies accordingly, optimizing game performance.

The concept of icing in hockey is both straightforward and complex, influencing the game's flow, strategy, and safety. By understanding its intricacies, fans and players alike can appreciate the sport's depth and the tactical decisions that make hockey so compelling.

Related Questions

How long do hockey games last?

A standard hockey game comprises three periods, each lasting 20 minutes, resulting in a total of 60 minutes of play. This applies to most professional leagues, including the National Hockey League (NHL). However, the actual duration of a hockey game extends beyond just the playing time due to several factors.

Ask Hotbot: How long do hockey games last?

How long is a hockey game?

In professional hockey leagues such as the National Hockey League (NHL), a standard game consists of three periods, each lasting 20 minutes. This results in 60 minutes of regular playtime. However, the actual time spectators spend watching a game is considerably longer due to various factors.

Ask Hotbot: How long is a hockey game?

How many periods in hockey?

In professional hockey leagues, such as the National Hockey League (NHL), a standard game is divided into three periods. Each period is 20 minutes long, leading to a total of 60 minutes of regulation play. This structure is consistent across most of the world's professional hockey leagues.

Ask Hotbot: How many periods in hockey?

How long does a hockey game last?

In professional ice hockey, such as the National Hockey League (NHL), a standard game consists of three periods. Each period is 20 minutes long, for a total of 60 minutes of play. The clock stops frequently, however, leading to a longer overall experience.

Ask Hotbot: How long does a hockey game last?