Icing is largely a defensive strategy used to interrupt an opponent’s attack in hockey, but it can also be an offensive strategy. And as fast-moving and physical as ice hockey is, with speed, strength, and agility the hallmarks of top players,
strategy still plays a big part in the game. Particularly icing. Let’s find out more.
Icing occurs when the defense sends the puck over the center red line and past the opposing team’s goal line, with no other player touching the puck. If the puck is first touched by a now-defensive player on the other team, icing is called.
The result is a face-off in the defensive end of the team who sent the puck to begin with—that is, the team who caused the icing infraction.
Icing In Hockey: Defense . . . And Offense?
League rules differ on icing. In the National Hockey League (NHL), icing is a double-edged strategy because first and foremost it will disrupt an offensive threat, pausing the flow and momentum of the attacking team or creating a pause in the action
(the face-off) so the defensive team can get organized; however, in the NHL if a member of the team who sent the puck across the center red line reaches the puck first after it crosses the opposing team’s goal line, it becomes a smart offensive
play, giving that team a potential scoring advantage. The puck is live and in play.
For this reason, you’ll see opposing NHL players race for the puck in a potential icing situation, because which team is likely to touch the puck first determines whether icing is called. An NHL rule passed in 2013 resulted in “hybrid
icing,” where the linesman must determine which player will touch the puck first after it crosses the goal line. If the linesman judges that the defensive player will reach the puck first, icing is called; if the attacking player is in the
lead (judging by the position of his foremost skate at the face-off dot), icing is not called and play continues. 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.
Sometimes, near the end of regulation play, a team pulls their goalie to have an attacking player advantage. If they have no one guarding their goal, they risk goals being scored against them because a quick clearance of the puck from the opposite
end will not result in icing: when the other team clears the puck over the center red line and it goes into the goal, even if no one touches it, that counts as a goal.
Shorthand Exception To The Icing Penalty
When a team is down a player or shorthanded due to a penalty, they are free to clear the puck from their defensive zone and no icing infraction is called. However, the full-strength team will still be
called for icing when they violate the rules.