NHL Icing Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide) - Hockey Response (2023)

There are often times during a hockey game when the defensive team is under so much pressure that the only way to relieve it may be to drill the puck all the way down the ice as far as possible into the opponent’s zone.

It’s not always the preferable thing to do as the faceoff will come back into the defensive end and the team which shot the puck down the ice isn’t allowed to make a player change. However, shooting the puck the length of the ice is always better than being scored against.

What is Icing in Hockey?

In hockey, an icing infraction takes place when a team shoots or passes the puck from their side of the ice surface, behind the center red line, and the puck goes untouched and crosses the opponent’s goal line.

The goal line is the red line that touches each corner, it lines up with the goal (net) of each team. The center red line is self-explanatory and is the red line that divides the ice surface in two, the starting faceoff of each period takes place at the middle of this line.

Here’s a photo showing where each goal line is, the center line, and added lines showing examples of a player icing the puck:

NHL Icing Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide) - Hockey Response (1)

If a team is playing shorthanded due to a penalty however, icing the puck is allowed and play continues without an icing stoppage.

The Different Types of Icing in Hockey:

Hybrid Icing

Hybrid icing is used in the NHL and it’s not really black and white as the icing infraction is based on the discretion of the linesmen. When the puck is shot by the defending team into the opponent’s zone the linesmen must decide if it’s icing or not based on which team’s player reaches the faceoff dots first in the zone where the puck has been shot.

The player that shoots it does not have to be the one that chases it to avoid icing, it’s going to be the closest player to the faceoff line. Take a look at the hybrid icing photo example below:

NHL Icing Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide) - Hockey Response (2)

The faceoff dots basically act as the finish line when a player from each team is racing for a puck which has been iced. If the defending player reaches the dots first then the linesman will blow the whistle and icing is called. If a player from the team which shot the puck the length of the ice reaches the faceoff dots first then the icing call is waved off and the puck remains in play.

While the faceoff dots are typically used as the finish line in a race between two opposing players, the determining factor is actually which player the linesman believes would be the first to touch the puck, not who would reach the faceoff dots first. If a race for the puck is simply too close to call by the time the competing players reach the faceoff dots, icing is called.

Touch Icing

As far as touch icing is concerned, the puck is still in play until a player from the defending team other than the goaltender touches the puck after it has been shot into their own zone and passes behind the goal line.

If the puck is shot down the ice and touched first by a player from the team which shot the puck, the play isn’t called icing and it will continue.

No Touch Icing

The opposite of touch icing is no-touch icing or automatic icing, which means the play is automatically whistled dead and called icing as soon as the puck crosses the goal line after being shot into the zone from the other side of the centre-ice red line.

The NHL Icing Rule Explained

The NHL introduced hybrid icing in the 2013/14 season after using the touch-icing rule in previous seasons.

Rule 81.1 of the NHL rule book states:

Icing: For the purpose of this rule, the center red line will divide the ice into halves. Should any player of a team, equal or superior in numerical strength (power-play) to the opposing team, shoot, bat or deflect the puck from his own half of the ice beyond the goal line of the opposing team, play shall be stopped.

Download the 2022-23 NHL rulebook here. Icing is rule 81 and ends at 81.6.

The key here is that the puck must travel the length of the ice untouched after it has been propelled from the team’s own side of center. If the puck touches a member of the defending team including the goalie before or after it reaches the goal line, icing is waved off.

How Has Icing Changed in the NHL Over the Years?

The NHL originally introduced the icing rule in 1937 and amended it in 1939 when teams that were killing a penalty were allowed to ice the puck. In 1951 the league stated that icing would be nullified whenever a goaltender touched the puck before it crossed over the goal line.

The rule was altered again in 1990/91 as icing was also nullified if the puck touched or passed through goal crease whenever the netminder had been pulled in favor of an extra attacker. In addition, icing was nullified whenever a netminder moved towards the puck when it was approaching the goal line.

In the 2005/06 season, the NHL began using the no-change rule regarding icing. This means that the team which iced the puck isn’t allowed to make a player change until after the faceoff which resumes play.

All of the players who were on the ice while the icing took place must remain on the ice for the ensuing faceoff while the opposing team is allowed to make a player change. A defending team will be allowed to make a substitution for an injured player though.

The NHL changed the touch-icing rule to the hybrid method in 2013/14 as a way to help reduce injuries which were occurring to players while racing to the puck as it crossed the goal line.In 2017/18 the league stated that the offending team isn’t allowed to take a timeout after they have iced the puck as a way to earn a rest for tired players on the ice.

Another alteration to the icing rule was added in 2019/20 when the NHL stated that the team which endured the icing would be allowed to choose which dot they preferred for the ensuing offensive-zone faceoff.

How Can Icing Be Waved Off?

There are certain occasions when a team will shoot the puck from its own side of center ice and icing will be waved off by the linesmen. For instance, the linesman determines that the puck could have been played before it crossed the goal line by a player from the defending team other than the goaltender.

Icing isn’t called if the puck was propelled directly down the ice by a player taking a faceoff on their own side of the centre-ice red line. In addition, if the a goaltender moves toward the puck before it crosses the goal line or touches the puck then icing is waved off.

Of course if the puck crosses the goal line between the goal posts then icing isn’t called as it means a goal has been scored and if a player from the team which iced the puck is determined by the linesman to win the race to the puck then the call is nullified.

Are You Ever Allowed to Ice the Puck?

A team may ice the puck at any time during a game but will have to pay the consequences by having the ensuing faceoff take place back in their own end and not being able to make a player change or call a timeout.

There is never a penalty for icing, only a whistle and a faceoff in your own zone.

A team can legally shoot the puck down the ice and across the opposing goal line if it is playing shorthanded due to having a player in the penalty box. This is stated in rule 81.6 “Numerical Strength”, stating that when the team below numerical strength (short-handed) to the opposing team ices the puck the play continues on.

Can Teams Challenge an Icing Call?

NHL Icing Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide) - Hockey Response (3)

A team which has been charged with icing the puck can’t officially make an on-ice challenge and have the play reviewed. However they can complain to the on-ice officials and if the officials decide that they made a mistake on the call the icing will be nullified and a faceoff will take place at center ice.

Can Players Change Shifts After an Icing Whistle?

The team which iced the puck isn’t allowed to make a player change before the ensuing faceoff but the opposing squad is free to do so.

However, an injured player is allowed to go off the ice and be replaced.

Where is the Faceoff After an Icing Call?

NHL Icing Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide) - Hockey Response (4)

When icing has been called the faceoff will take place in the zone of the team which iced the puck. This means inside the blueline of the team that iced the puck. The location of the faceoff takes place at the end zone face-off circle nearest to where the puck was when the play has been stopped for icing, whether it was the right or left side of the rink.

Why Do Goalies Put Their Arm Up for Icing?

The goaltender in the defending zone will typically raise his arm when the puck has been iced to let his teammates know that icing is about to be called. If no-touch icing is being used this means the defending players can relax as the puck doesn’t need to be touched.

However if touch icing or hybrid icing is in place, the goalie’s teammates are alerted to the fact that they need to reach the goal line or faceoff dots before an opposing player does or the icing call will be waved off.

Why is Icing Important in Hockey?

Nobody really wants to intentionally ice the puck if they don’t have to, but there could be an instance in the game when it’s more or less unavoidable or the best play to make. A team may be hemmed in its own zone and simply needs to relieve the constant pressure or the player may ice the puck as a way to get a short rest for their tired teammates.

Not all cases of icing are intentional as icing could also be the result of a missed stretch pass which originated from the player’s own side of center ice. It’s important that the linesmen get the icing call right as the offending team will be duly punished for it.

How is Icing Different than Offside?

Icing and offside are two different and unrelated hockey scenarios. Offside occurs when an offensive player enters the opponent’s defensive zone by crossing the blue line before the puck does whereas icing occurs when a team shoots or passes the puck from its own side of the centre-ice red line and it goes untouched into the opposing zone and crosses the goal line.

Read our related post on the NHL offside rule here.

Can You Take a Timeout After Icing?

Implemented during the 2017 and 2018 season, the team that ices the puck is not allowed to take a timeout. However, the other team is still allowed to call a timeout at this time. This is quite a rule as teams down a goal late in the game may need a breather or want to play their top scorers but can’t if they get caught in their own end.

Was Icing Always Part of the Game?

Icing was introduced into the NHL in 1937 as a way to punish teams from simply shooting the puck all the way down the ice as a defensive tactic. Teams which had the lead would often shoot the puck down the ice to help protect it.

For example: The New York Americans had a 3-2 lead over the Boston Bruins in a 1931 contest and proceeded to ice the puck more than 50 times in hopes of protecting the lead. The fans at Boston Garden weren’t too happy about it and littered the ice in debris to show their displeasure with the tactic.

The teams squared off again a few weeks later in New York with the Bruins icing the puck a reported 87 times as a way of paying the Americans and their fans back on a 0-0 tie. The NHL figured it better create some type of rule to stop these debacles, but it took the league a few years to introduce an icing rule.

Final Thoughts

The icing rule has helped greatly in the evolution of ice hockey as it helps stop teams from shooting the puck down the ice as a tactic. If a team chooses to ice the puck these days then it must face the consequences of its actions.

They’re not dire by any means as they aren’t assessed a penalty on the play, but many teams have been scored against from ensuing faceoffs immediately after icing the puck.

The newer hybrid icing rule has also proved to be a good decision as fewer players are suffering injuries while racing for the puck. When the NHL used touch icing it sometimes resulted in serious injuries with players colliding into the end boards.

No-touch icing also reduces collisions and injuries but it’s doubtful that the NHL will introduce this type of icing as the hybrid version creates excitement when opposing players go all out in a race to get to the faceoff dots or goal line.

Feel free to read our other NHL rule articles:

  • NHL Penalty Shot Rules (The Ultimate Guide)
  • NHL Shootout Rules (The Ultimate Guide)
  • NHL Helmet Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide)
  • What Is the NHL Broken Stick Rule?
  • Do NHL Players Have to Wear Visors? (NHL Visor Rule)
  • NHL Interference Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide)

NHL Icing Rule Explained (The Ultimate Guide) - Hockey Response (5)


Jamie is the founder of Hockey Response and he is the chief writer/ lead editor. Jamie has been playing hockey for over 20 years. He was the defenseman of the year in NL and has played Jr A level hockey. Jamie has coached several kids hockey camps and he was the assistant coach of the Western Kings.


How does the icing rule work in hockey? ›

Icing is when a player on his team's side of the red center line shoots the puck all the way down the ice and it crosses the red goal line at any point (other than the goal). Icing is not permitted when teams are at equal strength or on the power play.

Why does icing get waved off? ›

Icing is waved off when any of the following occurs: The team committing the icing is shorthanded (except under USA Hockey rules in competitions for 14-and-under age groups). The linesman believes a player on the opposing team (other than the goaltender) could have played the puck before it crossed the goal line.

Is it icing if you hit the post? ›

No. Rule Reference 624(a). Any time the puck is shot by an attacking player and rebounds from the body or stick of an opponent in his own half of the ice, so as to cross the goal line of the player shooting it, icing shall not be called.

What is the NHL rules on ice temperature? ›

Curling – the temperature should be 25F (-3C) Hockey – the temperature should be 22F to 25F (-5.5C to -3C) Figure Skating – the temperature should be 24F to 29F (-4.5C to -1.6C)

Can you line change on icing? ›

So, this play is whistled down with the faceoff being held in the zone of the team that iced the puck. As well as the faceoff coming back to your zone, the team that iced the puck is not allowed to make a line change.

Why does icing get runnier as you whip it? ›

You may have over-softened your cream cheese resulting in the runny frosting. Whipped Cream Frosting: Adding cornstarch to thicken it would work. Ensure to chill the whipping cream before you whip it. American Buttercream Frosting: The usual cause of a runny buttercream frosting is too much milk.

Is it still icing If the puck goes through the crease? ›

Icing the puck is the action of a player shooting, batting, kicking, or deflecting the puck from their own half of the ice, as divided by the centre red line, down and across the goal line in the opposing team's defending zone. If the puck enters the net on such a play, then it is not icing.

Why do goalies raise their glove for icing? ›

Goalies often raise their glove for icing because it helps them protect their hand and keep the puck from getting to close. When a goalie sees ice on the stick, they will reach up with their glove to brush off any snow or ice before putting the puck in play.

What is hybrid icing in hockey? ›

Hybrid icing in hockey is when the puck is shot from behind the center red line and two players race down the ice, with the two farthest faceoff dots (opposing team that iced the puck) being the “finish line”, instead of the goal line. If a player of the team that iced the puck touches it first, the play continues.

Why is icing illegal in hockey? ›

This rule was passed to prevent collisions (and therefore injuries) as players raced for the puck in an icing situation, trying to touch it first. In a potential icing scenario, if the goalie leaves his crease and touches the puck first, it's not icing and play continues.

What is the 10 second rule for icing? ›

To check the consistency, all you need to do is drag the tip of a butter knife through the surface of your icing, letting the knife go approximately an inch deep, and slowly count to 10. If the surface of the icing smoothes over in approximately 10 seconds then your icing is ready to use.

Can a hockey team dress 3 goalies? ›

Skaters. Teams may dress up to 19 skaters in a game. Goaltenders. Teams may dress up to three goaltenders in a game.

Can you be offside in ice hockey? ›

In ice hockey, a play is offside if a player on the attacking team enters the offensive zone before the puck itself does, and then receives possession of the puck from the neutral zone. Simply put, the puck must not enter the attacking zone after attacking players.

Does the NHL allow heated blades? ›

Kris King, the NHL's senior manager of hockey operations, said the league approved the heated blades after determining that the blades were safe.

How long can an NHL player stay on ice? ›

45 seconds allows players to be on the ice long enough to ensure they can maintain a maximum intensity of play without decreasing their performance. Typically speaking, if a player is skating at 100% intensity, they should be out of energy at around the 45 second mark.

How thick is NHL ice? ›

The ice is only about one inch thick when everything is finished. The official size of an NHL rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. To make an ice sheet with this large surface area requires about 10,600 gallons of water.

How do NHL players know when to change lines? ›

Hockey players know when to change based on a number of factors including the length of their shift, changing as a unit with your line mates, strategic matchups against your opponent, and only changing when it will not cause a scoring chance against.

When can a linesman not stop the play? ›

The infraction must: 1) constitute an “injury potential” penalty (see Glossary), 2) occur behind the play, and 3) have been unobserved by the Referee. Rule References 503(e) and Glossary. The Linesman does not stop play for these infractions, but reports to the Referee at the next normal stoppage of play.

What is high sticking in NHL? ›

(Note) High Sticking is the action where a player carries the stick above the normal height of the opponent's shoulders and makes contact with the opponent. A player must be accountable for being in control of their stick at all times.

Can you whip frosting too much? ›

If your frosting appears chunky or curdled, it's over-whipped. To fix, stir 1 Tablespoon of heavy cream into the frosting by hand to smooth out again. Use more heavy cream if needed to smooth out. Use it: After you make the whipped frosting, it's ready to frost your cupcakes, cake, or other confections.

How do you know if icing is too runny? ›

If your frosting is too runny, it'll melt and slide all over the cake. If it's too thick, it won't spread easily. Think of building and frosting your layer cake as a construction process. You'll want to start by forming a solid base structure, then work from there.

Is it icing if puck goes through blue paint? ›

Icing is not called if the player's team is killing a penalty, a teammate of the player shooting the puck touches it before a player from the opposing team, the defending goalie touches the puck first or if the puck travels through the crease (semicircle of blue paint at the "mouth" of the goal) on it's way to the red ...

Can you ice the puck when short handed? ›

The pilot rule, which applies to all games played from the Bantam level on down in the Bay State, states that “a team playing shorthanded shall not ice the puck. Upon an icing call, a faceoff will be held in the defensive zone of the offending team.”

Can you touch the puck in the crease? ›

Conversely, defensive players in the crease area are prohibited from covering or grabbing the puck, concealing it or taking it out of play, or the official can award a penalty shot for the attacking team.

What is the Brodeur rule? ›

Brodeur's prowess at puck handling was so well known that it led in part to the NHL changing its rules regarding where goaltenders were allowed to handle the puck outside of the goal crease, adding what is known as "the Brodeur rule".

Why can't goalies wear AC? ›

The rules of the IIHF, NHL and Hockey Canada do not permit goaltenders to be designated as on-ice captains, due to the logistical challenge of having the goaltender relay rules discussions between referees and coaches and then return to the crease.

Why do goalies slap their stick on the ice? ›

If you hear a loud sound in the final seconds of a power play, that the goalkeeper slapping their stick on the ice to indicate to their team that the power play is about to end.

What is a skunk in hockey? ›

A mercy rule, slaughter rule, knockout rule, or skunk rule ends a two-competitor sports competition earlier than the scheduled endpoint if one competitor has a very large and presumably insurmountable scoring lead over the other. It is called the mercy rule because it spares further humiliation for the loser.

What is a snow bunny hockey? ›

A puck bunny is a term used to describe a female ice hockey fan whose interest in the sport is purported to be primarily motivated by sexual attraction to the players rather than enjoyment of the game itself.

Why does ice hockey only have 3 periods? ›

Hockey is played in three periods to maintain the ice for better play. The longer hockey players skate on the ice, the more the ice quality diminishes. Splitting the game into 3 periods is better than 2 halves because it gives the Zamboni a chance to clean the ice to improve the game.

Are you allowed to punch in ice hockey? ›

Fighting is one of ice hockey's most unique elements, and it is the only sport where throwing punches is not only allowed, but sometimes encouraged. Despite a cooling off in recent years, fighting remains an often integral part of the game.

Why is ice hockey so aggressive? ›

Allowing fighting makes the sport safer overall by holding players accountable. Fighting draws fans and increases the game's entertainment value. Fighting is a hockey tradition that exists in the official rules and as an unwritten code among players.

Why don't they stop fights in ice hockey? ›

This is where fighting comes in: it is considered a way to keep hitting and cheap shots in check in the same way that those acts reduce playmaking chances. In an ice hockey face-off, sometimes the referee sends a player out of the circle to have a new player replace him.

Can defenseman cross the blue line? ›

In the offensive zone, the defence skaters usually "play the blue line." It is their duty to keep the puck in the offensive zone by stopping it from crossing the blue line that demarcates where the offensive zone begins.

What is the middle zone called between the two blue lines? ›

The area where the goal net is located is the “defending zone” for the team defending that net. The middle of the rink, between two blue lines, is the “neutral zone.” The area where the opposing net is located is the “attacking zone” or “offensive zone.”

Can you straddle the blue line in hockey? ›

Even though the attacking player was pushed, the offside infraction must still be called. If the push was severe enough, the Referee may elect to assess a minor penalty for interference. An attacking player straddling the attacking blue line receives a pass on their stick in the Neutral Zone.

What is the 2 or 5 second rule? ›

If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it. …. Hesitation is the kiss of death. You might hesitate for a just nanosecond, but that's all it takes. That one small hesitation triggers a mental system that's designed to stop you.

What does 15 second royal icing mean? ›

It's called 15-second royal icing because if you run a butterknife through the royal icing in your mixing bowl, the icing should blend back together in 15 seconds. This royal icing consistency holds its own, but softens or floods lightly so that any peaks made in the icing smooth out.

How many seconds is flooding icing? ›

Flood Icing: 10 seconds to settle flat. Flood Uses: Flooding (especially larger cookies), dipping, marbling, wet on wet, outlining and flooding immediately (especially smaller cookies). Runny Icing: 4 seconds to completely disappear.

Could a woman play goalie in the NHL? ›

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Manon Rheaume uses her glove to make a save during her professional debut against the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 23, 1992, in Tampa, Fla. Rheaume was the first woman to play in one of four major pro sports leagues.

Do female goalies wear cups? ›

Generally, only boys wear cups. Young female athletes wear pelvic protectors that serve the same purpose. Many soccer players do not wear protective gear under their clothing, and they have their reasons.

Why do so many goalies wear 31? ›

Numbers in the thirties were seen as "safe" for goaltenders, since most numbers below thirty were already spoken for by forwards and defensemen (remember that "high numbers" were essentially-unheard of at this time).

Does the whole puck have to cross the blue line? ›

For a goal to be scored, the puck normally must entirely cross the goal line between the posts and under the crossbar of the goal frame.

What are NHL sticks made of? ›

While the first hockey sticks were made from mulberry wood, the modern-day ones are a composite of fibreglass, carbon and aramid, a type of fibre.

Do you have to touch the puck to be offside? ›

Therefore, the determination as to whether an “offside” has occurred will only take place at the moment the puck has completely crossed the determining edge into the attacking zone. A player only needs to have skate contact with one skate with the blue line to be considered “onside.”

What is the penalty for icing call? ›

If a referee makes an icing call, the offending team will be penalized. However, they do not get a penalty. Instead, the sanction requires the offending team to face-off in their own end, near their goalie.

What is the difference between icing and offsides in hockey? ›

Icing, Offside and Other Violations or Stoppages

Offside is called when an offensive player enters the opposing team's zone before the puck does. As for icing, this occurs when a player passes or shoots a puck that crosses the center line and goal line untouched.

How do they mark the ice in hockey rink? ›

Blue/red lines are strung in place and you paint in between the lines – just like we learned in kindergarten. Circles are painted with a pre-measured circle maker with a paint stick on the end. One person holds the center of the circle in place while another travels in a circle around them painting the circle.

Can you call a timeout after icing? ›

The determination of players on the ice will be made when the puck leaves the offending player's stick. Either team is permitted to take their time-out, as per Rule 6.18 – Time of Game, following an icing, but during that time out, the team in violation of icing will not be permitted to make player substitutions.

Can a referee call offside in hockey? ›

The referee will blow his or her whistle and stop a play if an offsides infraction occurs. The faceoff then will take place at the closest faceoff dot outside of the offending team's defensive zone.

Why is there no offside in hockey? ›

Offside abolished

to transfer the balance of power towards the offense, to create more space around the circle and mid-field, to help the flow of play, more goals and fewer whistles, and. to make the game more exciting and appealing to spectators.

What does SOG mean in hockey? ›

SOG. Shots on goal. This refers to the number of times a player has directed the puck directly at the goal. Also refers to the number of shots on goal faced by a goaltender.

Can a goalie ice the puck? ›

The NHL loves to have the game of hockey play fast with few stoppages. This is one of the reasons that the goalie is the only player that is allowed to cover the puck in hockey to freeze the puck.

What are the 3 types of lines on the hockey rink? ›

Hockey rinks have three wide lines: two blue and one red. The red line divides the rink in half while each blue line is 25 feet on either side of the red line, creating a “neutral zone” of 50 feet between them. Additionally, at either end of the ice is a thin red line that reaches across the entire width of the rink.

How thick is the ice in an NHL rink? ›

The ice is only about one inch thick when everything is finished. The official size of an NHL rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. To make an ice sheet with this large surface area requires about 10,600 gallons of water. That's about half the volume of a one-car garage.

What are the circle dots called on a hockey rink? ›

Faceoff spots and circles

There are 9 faceoff spots on a hockey rink. All faceoffs take place at these spots. There are two spots in each team's defensive zone, two at each end of the neutral zone, and one in the centre of the rink. There are faceoff circles around the centre ice and end zone faceoff spots.

What are the blue and red lines called on an ice rink? ›

Other markings

The blue-filled semicircle near the net belongs to the goaltender. The crease, outlined in red, is eight feet wide and extends six feet from the goal line.


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