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Icing in Hockey: A Comprehensive Guide to Rules and Techniques

Icing is a fundamental rule within the sport of hockey, serving both strategic and regulatory functions. Employed as both a defensive and offensive strategy, icing occurs when a player shoots the puck across both the center red line and the opposing team’s goal line without it being touched by another player.

This rule’s importance is evident in how it shapes gameplay, often leading to a face-off in the offending team’s defensive end. Despite its prevalence, the concept of icing can be complex, leading to various interpretations and applications within the sport.

Join us as we delve into the multifaceted nature of icing, exploring its forms, underlying mechanics, and the pivotal role it plays in the strategy and appeal of hockey.

What is Icing in Hockey?

Icing in hockey is a rule that is applied when a player sends the puck across both the center red line and the opposing team’s goal line without it being touched by another player on the opposing team.


  • Where it Applies: The hockey rink is divided into two halves by the center red line. The rule of icing is concerned with how the puck is played across this line.
  • What Constitutes Icing: Icing is called when a player hits, shoots, or deflects the puck from his team’s half of the rink (before the center red line) to the opponent’s goal line without the puck being touched by any player from the opposing team.
  • Exceptions: Certain situations exempt the play from an icing call, such as when teams are on a power play or at equal strength. Additionally, the rule may vary slightly between different hockey leagues.
  • Result of Icing: When icing is called, it leads to an immediate stoppage of play, followed by a faceoff in the defensive zone of the team that committed the icing.

The Rule of Icing

Icing is a complex rule with many exceptions. When called, it results in a game stoppage and a faceoff in the zone of the team that iced the puck.

  • If a delayed penalty occurs, the faceoff happens at the neutral spot nearest the attacking team’s goal.
  • If the linesman errs in calling icing, the faceoff is at the center faceoff spot.
  • An icing call isn’t inherently negative, but each call increases the risk of the opponent winning a faceoff and scoring a goal.

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Common Reasons for Icing the Puck

Tiring Out the Opposing TeamUsed as a strategic move to tire out the opposing team and create scoring opportunities later in the game.
Killing a PenaltyUsed by the team that is down a player to relieve pressure and buy time.
Clearing the ZoneUsed to clear the puck out of the defensive zone to prevent the opposing team from scoring.
Changing LinesUsed to give the team a chance to change players on the ice without penalty or consequence.

To learn about key positions and roles of players in ice hockey, read my guide on Ice Hockey Positions.

The Types of Icing in Hockey

Following are the types of icing are there in hockey:

  • Touch Icing
  • No-Touch Icing
  • Hybrid Icing

Touch Icing

Touch icing, also known as “race icing,” is a rule in ice hockey where icing is called only if a player from the opposing team reaches and touches the puck first after it has been shot across both the center red line and the opposing team’s goal line. If a player from the team that shot the puck touches it first, the icing is waved off, and play continues.

This rule can lead to high-speed races for the puck, creating both excitement and potential safety concerns.

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No touch Icing

No-touch icing, also known as automatic icing, is a rule in ice hockey where play is stopped immediately when the puck crosses the opposing team’s goal line without being touched, after being shot from behind the center red line. This rule helps reduce the risk of injuries and has become popular in some leagues.

Hybrid Icing

Hybrid icing is a rule in ice hockey that merges features of touch and no-touch icing. When a puck is shot across the ice and the opponent’s player reaches the faceoff dot first, icing is called. However, if the team that iced the puck reaches it first, the icing is waved off.

Introduced in the NHL and other professional leagues, this rule minimizes collisions between players during races to touch the puck, allowing for a safer game. The decision to call or wave off the icing is made by the linesman, who judges based on who would have touched the puck first, enhancing the dynamic nature of the game while maintaining player safety.

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Implementation of the Icing Rule

In ice hockey, the icing call is signaled by the referee raising his arm with the palm facing inward. A whistle blow confirms the infraction.

When icing is called, the linesman crosses their arms and skates to the faceoff dot, indicating where the faceoff will take place. Pending icing is shown by the linesman raising an arm, and a waived-off icing is signaled by lowering the arm and providing the washout signal. These gestures ensure clear communication of the icing rule during gameplay.

Exceptions to Icing Rule

There are some exceptions to the icing rule. The icing is waived off in the following situations:

  • The puck enters the goal.
  • The puck Is iced during the faceoff from a player.
  • The team making the play is shorthanded.
  • The goalie leaves his crease and moves toward the puck.
  • The linesman believes that the opponent could have played the puck before it crosses the line.
  • The conditions for hybrid icing or touch icing are met.
  • The goalie touches the puck

Importance of Understanding the Icing In hockey

The hockey icing rule was introduced in 1937 as a way of eliminating the tactics of delaying the game. The rule was initiated since the teams in the NHL had begun shooting the puck down the ice as a delaying tactic at the game ends when they had the lead. 

Before the implementation of the rule, the teams having the lead in the game could simply shoot the puck down the ice without the play stopping, thus burning precious time off the clock. This was frustrating for both the losing team as well as the fans. So, the icing was introduced to stop the teams from firing the puck down the ice.

Effects of Icing in Hockey

Icing has a significant influence on the flow and strategy of a hockey game. One common tactic involves players attempting to skate the puck beyond the center red line, a maneuver known as “gaining the red line.” Once achieved, the team has the option to shoot the puck into the opponent’s defensive zone.

Teams often utilize icing to gain control over the puck before their opponents. This strategic move requires agility, precise timing, and speed, as it can result in temporary possession of the puck. In essence, icing becomes a tactical maneuver within the game’s broader strategy.

Furthermore, icing allows teams to rotate penalty killers more frequently, injecting fresh players onto the ice. However, this benefit comes with a trade-off, as it can lead to multiple stoppages in play. Leagues like the NHL are mindful of this aspect, often focusing on maintaining the game’s momentum and minimizing unnecessary interruptions.

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National Hockey League (NHL) Icing Rules

Type of IcingDescription
Touch IcingWhen a player from the opposing team, other than the goalie, touches the puck causing the stoppage of play
No-touch IcingWhen the puck crosses the goal line untouched by any player, resulting in a stoppage of play
Hybrid IcingA combination of touch and no-touch icing, where the linesman judges which player would reach the puck first
Icing the Puck on a Power PlayThe team that iced the puck cannot make a line change before the ensuing faceoff
Icing the Puck While ShorthandedThe team that iced the puck can make a line change before the ensuing faceoff.

While understanding icing is crucial, grasping the broader structure of the game is equally important. Learn more about the segmentation of play in our guide on Hockey Periods, and for insights into the overall duration of a match, check out our article on Hockey Game Length.

Common Questions Related to Icing

What happens if the puck hits the post or crossbar during an icing call?

If the puck hits the post or crossbar during an icing call, the play is still considered icing and the same faceoff location applies.

Can a team score a goal during an icing call?

No, a team cannot score a goal during an icing call. The play is stopped and a faceoff is held in the offending team’s defensive zone.

When does hybrid icing come into play?

Hybrid icing is used in some leagues as a safety measure to reduce the risk of player injuries. It is used when a defenseman and an attacking player are racing for the puck and the outcome is uncertain. If the defenseman is deemed to have a better chance of reaching the puck first, the play is whistled dead and icing is called.

What is the purpose of the no-touch icing rule?

The no-touch icing rule is intended to reduce the risk of player injuries by eliminating the need for players to race to touch the puck before it crosses the goal line.

How does the NHL handle icing in overtime?

In the NHL, icing rules are the same during overtime as they are during regulation time. If a team commits an icing infraction during overtime, play is stopped and a faceoff is held in their defensive zone.

What is the role of icing in hockey?

The role of icing in hockey is to prevent teams from simply shooting the puck down the ice to avoid being pressured by the opposing team. It encourages teams to make strategic passes and play more aggressively in order to score goals.

What is the new icing rule in NHL hockey?

The new icing rule in NHL hockey is the hybrid icing rule, which was implemented to improve player safety. It allows the linesman to blow the play dead and call icing if he determines that the defending player would touch the puck first, even if the players are racing toward the end boards.

Is there a penalty for icing in hockey?

No, there is no penalty for icing in hockey. The play is simply stopped and a faceoff occurs in the offending team’s defensive zone.

Is it icing if it hits the post?

Yes, it is still considered icing if the puck hits the post and crosses the goal line. The reason for this is that icing is determined by the puck crossing the goal line, not by whether or not it goes into the net.

Now that you’ve gained a better understanding of icing in hockey, it’s time to consider the equipment you’ll need for optimal performance on the ice. Discover the market-leading hockey brands in our comprehensive guide and learn how to choose the perfect gear to elevate your game.


Though the icing rule has been designed to encourage offensive play and discourage aggressive defense tactics by penalizing those who take benefit of each other on the ice. The basic idea has remained the same till after going through many modifications and refinements. 

Many people consider the rule of icing unfair and dangerous. During this rule, the players have to chase the puck into their zone. There they can get checked by other players and also hit the boards.

Most people believe that this rule must be eliminated as it put players in danger without any need. Besides this, icing slows down the game and messes up the flow of the game.

Removing the icing may reduce the aggression among players along with reducing the overall athletic skill & speed in the play. Since, to make hockey safer by reducing the risk of players’ collisions, some essential elements could also be lost. So, the decision is very critical and needs to be considered carefully before being taken.

To gain a deeper understanding of icing in hockey and its implications, it’s important to equip yourself with valuable resources. Explore our articles on ice hockey tips and ice hockey skills to enhance your knowledge and improve your overall game. By incorporating effective tips and honing your skills, you can navigate icing situations with confidence and elevate your performance on the ice.

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