Icing is one of the simpler rules in ice hockey yet always confuses new players. This rule is meant to prevent an unnecessary waste of time by continuously shooting the puck in the opponent’s zone.
An icing is called when the attacking team shoots the puck past the opposing goal line before having crossed center ice with the puck. Effectively getting the puck out of their defensive zone and into the opponent’s without anyone touching it. Upon an Icing infraction being called, the referee whistles and a faceoff takes place in the offending team’s defensive zone. In some leagues, defensive players cannot change between the icing being called and the faceoff resuming play. This is intended to reduce the effectiveness of “dumping” the puck in the opposing end when a team is tired, unable to defend their zone and just want to change.
In the following cases, an icing will not be called:
- If an opponent touches the puck after it has been shot and before it crosses the goal line
- If a teammate touches the puck past the red line (in this case it is considered a missed pass rather than icing)
- If an opponent could have touched the puck but refrained from doing so
- If the offending team is shorthanded (playing with one player less due to a penalty)
In certain leagues including the NHL, touch icing is used. In touch icing, the whistle will not be blown by the referee unless a defending player touches the puck before a player of the offending team. In this way, a faster team can “dump” the puck to the other end without infraction provided they can reach it before the other team. In some cases this has been criticized as it can create a race for the puck and cause injuries to players who may fall or hit eachother when skating at full speed.