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What Is Icing In Ice Hockey? The Icing Rule

Today we are taking a look is one of the popular rules in ice hockey. Just like any sport, ice hockey is made up of a set of rules that order the actions of players. Among these rules is the icing rule. In this context, we’ll look at the meaning of icing in hockey, its history, variations, and exceptions. 

What Is Icing In Ice Hockey?

In Hockey, What Is Icing?

First, let’s start with the basics, what is referred to as icing in hockey? 

Icing is a violation in ice hockey in which a player hits, deflects, shoots, or engages the puck with his hand or stick, causing the puck to cross the red center line and red goal line of the opposing team without having contact with other players.

An offending team can get away with an icing violation if any player from their team gets to the puck first

Icing is sometimes a two-way strategy in which teams have the option of:

  • Icing the puck and allowing the defensemen to catch a breather and recover. Or, in some cases dumping it in to delay the game. This is especially common as a strategy for shorthanded teams.
  • And in another way, it is a good offensive tactic if a player from the team that iced the puck is able to get to the puck first to break the icing (this will be explained later on).

The term “icing the puck” explains that a player has committed icing by shooting the puck over the red center line and the opposing team’s goal line.

Related Post: What Are The Basic Rules Of Ice Hockey?

Referee Signal

If a player shoots the puck across the red center line and goal lines, icing is not called immediately. At this point, icing is said to be pending. When this happens, the linesman raises a hand to indicate that icing is pending. 

If icing will be called, the determiner is based on the team of the first player to reach the puck. If the first player is from the team that iced the puck, the icing is suspended. When icing is called off (suspended), the referee drops his hands and gives the washout signal.

The washout signal is made when the referee stretches his hands sideways so that his shoulder and hands are leveled horizontally.

But if the first player to get to the puck is from the opposing team, the whistle is blown for a stoppage. After this, a faceoff is taken at a faceoff spot in the defensive zone of the offending team

History Of Icing In Hockey

History Of Icing In Hockey

The icing rule became part of the NHL on September 1937. The reason for its addition to the rule was because of the tactics that teams used to ensure that they maintained their goal margin over an opponent team.

This tactic involved dumping the puck from one end of the ice to the other repeatedly. This back-and-forth tactic did not allow forward to be constructive with their attack formulas and created boring games.

Two renowned games that saw the puck iced numerous times in a game were the New York Americans and the Boston Bruins. The New York Americans ensured that they maintained their 3-2 lead by icing the puck a total of 50 times in a single game. This led to spectators throwing debris into the ice.

However, this was nothing compared that the next time they played. The Bruins ensured they had their revenge in the game; it ended scoreless, with the Bruins icing the puck 87 times.

These are part of the reason why the NHL brought in the icing rule. Over the year, icing in hockey has had several amendments.

The amendment in 1951 saw that icing be suspended if the opponent goalie touches the puck. And in the 2013-14 season, hybrid icing was implemented into the NHL.

Variations Of Icing In Hockey

Variations Of Icing In Hockey

There are three variations of icing in hockey. These variations were due to the different implementations and rule changes to icing in ice hockey. The three variations of icing in hockey include:

  • Touch Icing 
  • No-Touch Icing or Automatic Icing
  • Hybrid Icing

Touch Icing 

In Touch Icing, an icing violation for an offending team will be called when any player from the opposing team (exempting the goalie) makes it to the puck first. This means competing players will have to race themselves to the puck, and only when the opposing team touches the puck will an icing be called. 

Touch icing recorded lots of injuries to players, some of which included concussions from crashing into the boards or bashing into opposing players.

This version of the icing was reconsidered, especially after the player for the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League suffered a spinal injury from the impact of crashing into a board during an icing incident which eventually led to his death.

No-Touch Icing 

No-touch icing was implemented as an alternative to touch icing. This version of icing is a more direct approach that does not leave room for icing to be suspended. 

In no-touch icing, once the puck crosses the center line and red goal line of the opposing team, the whistle for a game stoppage is blown, and an icing violation is called immediately. 

For no-touch icing, players do not need to chase after the puck to try to keep or suspend an icing violation.

No-touch icing is still used by amateur hockey leagues in the United States as a substitution for touch icing because it takes away the injury risks associated with it.

Hybrid Icing

Finally is hybrid icing. Hybrid icing rules are very similar to touch icing. In hybrid icing, the determiner of if an icing violation is called or suspended is based on the team of the first player to reach the closest playoff spot. 

Therefore instead of players skating to the end of the rink where they face injury risk, the officials will determine who would have gotten to the puck first based on the first player to reach the hash mark in the playoff circle closest to where the puck was iced.

Hockey Icing Rule

Hockey Icing Rule

Even though icing is an infraction in ice hockey, players do not serve penalty time in the penalty box. If icing is called against a team, a faceoff is taken at the faceoff circle in the offending team’s defensive zone.

In addition, the only time a team is granted grace to ice the puck without an icing violation being called is when the team is shorthanded. If a team is on power play, the shorthanded team is allowed to ice the puck. 

When icing is called, the offending team is not allowed to perform any line change to the players on the ice. Also, a team can not call for a timeout when icing is called against one of its players.

It is an effective power play breaker. However, this is not the only exception given to the icing rule. 

Exception To Icing In Hockey

Exception To Icing In Hockey

The following is a list of times when icing is not called, even if a player ice the puck.

  • When a team is shorthanded by at least one player. However, this rule does not apply to the United States under 14 age groups.
  • If a goalie touches the puck, then icing is not called. 
  • If a goalie leaves the goalie crease to retrieve the puck, then icing is not called. Again, this does not apply to the United States Hockey rules
  • Also, if a player (excluding the goalie) from the opposing team is deemed to have been able to prevent the icing infraction from occurring, then icing is not called. This means if an opposing team player had the opportunity to stop the puck before it crossed the line but refused to, then icing is not called. 
  • If a player hits the puck while on the red center line
  • Icing is not called if a goal is scored. If an iced puck crosses the goal line inside the net, icing is not called; rather, a goal is awarded. 
  • Icing the puck during a faceoff. 
  • Finally, icing is not called if the offending team gets to the puck or faceoff spot first, as stated in touch and hybrid icing.


This is all on the history, rules, and exceptions to icing in hockey. Luckily, the hybrid icing variation is currently the version of icing in use by the NHL and many other leagues. 

It is preferred because of its reduced rate of injuries and the thrill fans get as players chase after the puck. In all, I hope you have understood the basics of icing in ice hockey and NHL. 

Thanks for reading.

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