Icing Rule Explained
Hockey is a game of tremendous speed and constant contact. It's also a game of strategies and techniques that can give a team an advantage. But these strategies are not always without consequence. The three major NHL rules that limit the movement of the puck are icing, off-side, and out-of-play. For now, we'll concentrate on icing.
What exactly is icing?
Basically, icing is a tactic whereby a player on his own side of the red line dumps the puck to the end of the ice from behind the center ice red line. If the puck crosses the opposing goal line untouched, and is then retrieved by an opposing player, icing is called. Considered a delaying tactic, it results in a stoppage in play and a face-off in the offending team's defensive zone. The purpose of the icing rule is to encourage continuous action.
When the conditions of "icing the puck'' have occurred, the referee will blow his whistle and raise his non-whistle hand over his head. Play stops and a face-off is held in the defensive zone of the team that iced the puck. The back official will then move to the face-off spot and give the icing signal.
Why is icing a problem?
The icing rule was introduced by the NHL to prevent teams from wasting time when they were ahead late in the game, especially if the score was still close. The rule was designed to prevent a team from "dumping" the puck into their opponent's zone in order to use up the clock or to avoid playing defense.
Before the rule, teams that were stuck in their own defensive end for too long would ice the puck just to be able to make a line change and switch out tired players. In 2005, the NHL modified the icing rule to state that the five players on the ice for the offending team must remain on the ice for the subsequent face-off. The modification resulted in fewer icing incidents since the severity of the penalty outweighed the benefit.
Please Note: 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.
Exceptions to the rule...
One exception to the icing rule occurs when a team is shorthanded. During power play situations, the shorthanded team is allowed to dump the puck without an icing penalty being called. Icing can also be waved off if the referee determines that an opposing player could have touched the puck before it crossed the goal line.
In the NHL and AHL, a player on the opposing team other than the goaltender must touch the puck to cause the stoppage of play. If the puck is first touched by the goaltender or a player on the team that iced the puck, icing is waved off (cancelled) and play continues.