Icing The Puck In Hockey – What Does It Mean?

Icing in hockey can be confusing, but this guide breaks down the rules, penalties, and situations surrounding it to help you fully understand.

What is icing in hockey and how does it work?

In hockey, icing is when a player shoots the puck from their end of the ice to the opposing team’s end of the ice and it crosses the goal line without being touched by another player. When this happens, play is typically stopped and a faceoff occurs in the offending team’s defensive zone. However, there are certain situations where icing will not result in a stoppage of play, such as when a team is shorthanded due to a penalty or if the goaltender leaves their crease to retrieve the puck. It’s important for players to understand both the rules regarding icing and when it will be called, as it can impact their gameplay strategy.

Factors that can affect icing the puck

You should know that the player doesn’t necessarily need to shoot the puck down the ice. It can also be deflected or batted down the ice without using the stick and still be called icing. 

If the puck is deflected by the team that is icing the puck, it is still considered icing if the player that has been hit with the puck has not gained center ice.

Icing only affects the team that is either playing even strength with the same amount of players on the ice or while on a power play. Icing does not affect the team who is considered to be short-handed while having a player in the penalty box.

Other icing rules

The linesman who calls icing on the play will factor in 2 key judgments. 

  • The puck must cross the goal line.
  • The defending player must be determined as the first player who would reach the puck. This is based on whether the attacking or defending player reaches the faceoff dot first. 

If both the attacking and defending players reach the faceoff dot at the same time, icing will be called.

If the puck deflects off a referee, icing will be called and the icing rules still apply.  

Check out all hockey rules articles here.

Why was icing introduced? 

Before 1937, the rule of icing the puck didn’t exist. 

The rule of icing was introduced to prevent one team from intentionally shooting the puck from their own end to the other end of the ice to alleviate offense and pressure from the opposing team. 

Without an icing rule, the game would be less interesting and enjoyable. Although teams still ice the puck whether it’s intentional or not, it happens less frequently if the icing rule wasn’t in place.

When is icing waved off?

There are a few reasons why icing may be waved off by the official. 

  • The puck doesn’t cross the goal line of the opposing team.
  • The team icing the puck has a player who would touch the puck first.
  • The opposing team goaltender leaves the crease in an attempt to play the puck or actually touches the puck. 
  • The official deems that shooting the puck down the ice was an attempted pass to another player.
  • The official believes the opposing player could have played the puck before it crosses the goal line. 
  • When shooting the puck down the ice results in a shot on goal forcing the goaltender to make a play on the puck.

Icing diagram with examples

If player #1 shoots the puck across the goal line no icing will be called as the player has gained the red line.

If player #2 shoots the puck across the goal line, icing will be called as the center ice red line has not been gained.

If player #3 shoots the puck down the ice, no icing will be called as it results in a shot on goal forcing the goaltender to play the puck.

If player #4 shoots the puck across the goal line, icing will be called.

If the puck lands short of the goal line, icing will not be called.

Hybrid or no touch icing

In the 2013-14 NHL season, the league implemented one of the best rule changes in history.

Before this season, icing the puck would require the opposing team to actually touch the puck after it reaches the goal line ahead of the team who is icing the puck.

This rule resulted in high-speed chases to see who could touch the puck first which caused many injuries from players being checked or tripped into the boards. This is called touch icing.

Since 2013-14, hybrid icing or no-touch icing has been the rule. This has saved many injuries as the player now needs to win the race to the faceoff dot as mentioned above.

The player no longer needs to touch the puck behind the goal line for icing to be called.

Line changes

Another big change to the rule of icing the puck took place ahead of the 2004-05 NHL season.

The change is that the team who is icing the puck can not change the players on the ice or perform a full-line change. This is another measure to prevent teams from intentionally icing the puck when under pressure from the opposing team.

If the players on the ice are tired, they will have to stay on the ice in the event they ice the puck. You can no longer ice the puck if you are looking for a line change to get off the ice. 

Goaltenders role in icing

It’s not just the forwards and defenseman that play a role with icing calls. Goaltenders can ice the puck too.

If the goaltender shoots the puck the full length of the ice into the opposing team’s zone crossing the goal line, the same icing rules apply. 

Goaltenders can also force the official to waive off an icing call by leaving the crease in an attempt to play the puck.

They can touch the puck which will nullify the icing call or just leave the crease with intent to play the puck will also nullify the icing call. 

Does icing the puck result in a penalty?

No, there is no penalty charged to the team or player for icing the puck. The icing call will result in a faceoff at the left or right faceoff dot in the offending team’s zone. 

Remember that icing will only be called when teams are at even strength or if the offending team is on a powerplay.

If a team is killing off a penalty and is shorthanded, no icing will be called when shooting the puck down the ice. 

What does gaining the red line mean?

As mentioned above, icing will be in play if a player shoots the puck the length of the ice prior to reaching or gaining the red line.

Players on the ice will intentionally try to dump the puck into the opposing team’s zone in an attempt to regain control of the puck.

You will often see a player work hard to gain the red center ice line prior to dumping the puck in and avoiding an icing call.