Icing Rule In Ice Hockey Easily Explained

Every wondered what the icing rule means in ice hockey? It’s time to clear it up, set the record straight and explain the rule in plain and simple english.

Simple explanation

Icing is when a player fires the puck from their side of the rink right across to the red line on the other side. -without it being touched en route or scoring a goal. (there are a few exceptions to this well explore later.

Before we get into in more depth- check out this Snoop Dog and NHL collaboration – give you the low-down (it’s hilarious!).

Hockey 101 with Snoop Dogg | Ep 4: Icing

Why does it exist?

The rule is there to prevent players from easily getting the puck into the other teams area by making giant passes in each play – it’s designed to improve the quality of the game and make the sport more fun to watch.

If the icing rule didn’t exist then players would be more tempted to fire the puck down the ice whenever their in difficulty – this would make the games less interesting and reduce time-wasting.

Example of Icing

Icing occurs when a player shoots the puck from behind the center line and over and across to the opposing teams goal line – without any other player touching it.

Exceptions to the rule

There are a few exceptions that prevent an icing call.

The two major exceptions are when a team is shorthanded or the puck goes in the goal.

Shorthanded is when one team has less players on the ice (because a player is in the penalty box). The shorthanded team is allowed to fire the puck as far as they like without getting an icing call.

The opposing team with more players on the ice, the team on a power play are however still bound by the icing rule.

In this situation icing the puck is usually a good move as a way to get the back away from your net as fast as possible – as you have fewer players available to protect it.

While posession of the back is a better move, firing the puck away is a good idea when the opposing players are honing in on you and you don’t have much chance of making a play to one of your own.

Icing is waived in the following situations:

  • The puck enters the goal
  • The puck is ice from a player during a face-off
  • The goaltender leave his crease and moves towards the puck (international rule outside of US hockey).
  • The linesman believe the opposing team could have played the puck before it cross the line.
  • The team making the play is shorthanded.

Consequences of Icing

When the referee blows the whistle due to an icing call, the other team get penalized by having a face-off in their own side of the rink.

This is a minor penalty in the grand scheme of things, but its risky territory as the puck is now close to the goal and the opposing team have a fighting chance of scoring a goal – if they win the face-off.

Getting an icing call is not the worse thing that can happen to a team – it’s pretty trivial as infractions go.

But with each call you risk your opponents winning a face-off and scoring a goal.

The Three Variations

Icing has three common variations:

  • Touch icing
  • No-touch or automatic icing
  • Hybrid icing

Touch icing occurs when a player on the opposing team must touch the puck to cause the referee to call icing.

No touch icing happens in most amateur leauqe whereby the icing is automatic once the puck crosses the line. Play is stopped immediately and icing is called without the need for a player to touch it.

Hybrid icing is a bit more complex. With this type of icing the referee blows the whilst when the opposing player reaches the face-off dot first (instead of skating to touch the puck).

The race is not to the puck but to the corner face-off dots. If the defending player is ahead in the race to the dots then an icing infraction is called.

This is to prevent collisions and also to give the team that fired the puck a chance to reach it first.

If they do get their first then the icing call is waived.

This is the icing method in most top divisions like the NHL, AHL and in IIHF rules.

The rules were switched to hybrid icing for the 2013-14 NHL season and beyond.

Icing in your league

The icing rule for non-pro hockey varies by league. Most leagues enforce a “no-touch” icing, in which icing is called and play is stopped as soon as the puck crosses the goal line, regardless of whether or not an opponent touches it. 

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