What is Icing in Hockey?

Icing is an infraction in ice hockey. This rule applies if a player shoots the puck from before the center line behind the goal line of the opposing team.

The game is then stopped, resulting in a face-off in the offender’s defensive zone (or the team that caused the icing infraction). This is not a penalty, but a bad spot to be in for the defending team (the team that caused the infraction). If the other team wins this face-off, they might have a great scoring chance.


Why is the icing rule so important?

The icing rule is important, since without it, it would take away from the flow of the game. If this wasn’t a rule every hockey player would flip the puck all the way down the end of the ice and then chase it.

That’s why they made a rule for this. You aren’t allowed to pass the puck to the far side of the rink, pass the red goal line from your side of the center ice line.

Icing Penalty Explained
An image explaining the icing infraction. Example A is a good play, while example B has an icing penalty.


Is Icing a Defensive or Offensive Strategy?

It can be both and many pro players see it as a double-edged strategy. That said, it’s usually seen as a defensive strategy used to interrupt an opponent’s attack. This pauses the game and ruins the momentum of the attacking team. This way the defending team can reorganize themselves better.

However, in the NHL because of delayed icing, it can be seen as an offensive strategy as well. If a member of the team who sent the puck across the center red line reaches the puck first (after it crosses the opposing team’s goal line) it becomes a very smart offensive play, and no penalty will be given.


Different forms of icing

There are two forms of icing, the automatic and the delayed variant.

  1. Automatic Icing: Used in European and international competitions. If the puck has passed the goal line, the icing rule applies immediately.
  2. Delayed Icing: Used in the NHL. The game is only stopped when a player of the opposing team touches the puck. This allows a fast skating player to take advantage of the icing rule. Even if the goalkeeper touches the puck, the icing is canceled.

In the NHL a lot of misuse was made of these rules. Players used it to change lines or just to give the defending team some extra time to catch their breath and reposition themselves. This is why the NHL uses the delayed rule.


Shorthand Exception to the Icing Penalty

There is an exception to the icing penalty. When a team is already short one player, due to a previous penalty, they are allowed to ice the puck without any repercussions.

Also, the officials can choose not to blow his whistle for an icing penalty. Usually, it is seen as a judgement call by the linesmen. Most of the times this happens when a defensive player could reach the puck before it crossed the red line, but for some reason chooses not to. This also goes to the flow of the game. The defender should always play the puck when he can.


Changes over the years

 The rules of icing have somewhat changed over the years. In ice hockey, players use different strategies to their advantage. Icing was also used as a sort of loophole in the past.

What they would do was the following. Whenever a player got tired, they would ice the puck, so that the tired player needs to go to the bench and another player takes their spot.

Officials changed this rule, because icing wasn’t meant to be an advantage, but an infraction. The new rule now says that if a team ices the puck, everyone must stay on the ice (except in case of injury). The penalized team doesn’t have any abilities anymore to swap out any players.



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