Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

If you’re a fan of ice hockey or just starting to learn about the game, you may have come across the term “icing.” Icing is an infraction that occurs when a player shoots, bats, or deflects the puck over the center red line and the opposing team’s red goal line without any other player touching it. This rule was introduced to prevent teams from using delaying tactics to protect a lead or disrupt the flow of the game.

 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concept of icing in hockey, its purpose, variations, exceptions, and the history behind the rule. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of what icing is and how it impacts the game.

1. The Purpose of the Icing Rule

The icing rule in hockey serves multiple purposes. First and foremost, it prevents a defending team from easily sending the puck to the other end of the rink to delay the game. This ensures that the game remains fast-paced and exciting for both players and spectators.

Additionally, icing provides a strategic advantage to both the defensive and offensive teams. For the defensive team, icing allows them to disrupt the attacking team’s momentum and gives them an opportunity to regroup and defend their zone. On the other hand, the offensive team can potentially benefit from icing if one of their players reaches the puck first after it crosses the opposing team’s goal line.

2. The Basics of Icing

To understand icing fully, let’s break down the basic elements of the rule. When a player shoots, bats, or deflects the puck over the center red line and past the opposing team’s red goal line without any other player touching it, icing is called. The play is then stopped, and a faceoff takes place in the defending zone of the team that committed the icing infraction.

The purpose of this rule is to deter teams from using the tactic of simply shooting the puck down the ice to waste time or disrupt the opposing team’s attack. By enforcing icing, it encourages teams to play an active and competitive game rather than resorting to passive defensive strategies.

3. Exceptions to the Icing Rule

While the icing rule is generally straightforward, there are exceptions that may lead to icing being waved off. Let’s explore some of these exceptions:

  • Shorthanded Icing: When a team is shorthanded due to a penalty, they are allowed to clear the puck from their defensive zone without incurring an icing infraction. This exception gives the shorthanded team an opportunity to relieve pressure and potentially kill off the penalty.
  • Opposing Player’s Ability to Play the Puck: If the linesman believes that a player from the opposing team, excluding the goaltender, had the ability to play the puck before it crossed the goal line, icing may be waved off. This exception ensures that players actively participate in the play and prevents unnecessary stoppages.
  • Icing from a Faceoff: If the puck is iced directly from a player participating in a faceoff, the icing infraction is waved off. This exception allows for a fair and continuous flow of the game, as faceoffs are already a form of stoppage.
  • Goaltender’s Actions: If the goaltender leaves their crease and touches the puck before it crosses the goal line, icing is nullified. This exception recognizes the goaltender’s involvement in the play and prevents them from being penalized unfairly.
  • Goalie Touching the Puck: If the goaltender touches the puck before it crosses the goal line, icing is waved off. This exception acknowledges the goaltender’s ability to influence the play and contributes to the fluidity of the game.
  • Puck Crossing the Goal Line Between the Posts: If the puck ices from the defensive zone and crosses the goal line between the goal posts of the opposing team without any player touching it, it results in a goal for the team that shot the puck. This scenario rewards offensive aggression and accuracy.
  • Hybrid Icing: In hybrid icing, the linesman judges whether the defending player or the attacking player will reach the faceoff dot first after the puck crosses the goal line. If the defending player is likely to reach the puck first, icing is called and play stops. However, if the attacking player is in the lead, icing is waved off, and the play continues. This variation aims to reduce collisions and injuries during icing situations.

4. Variations of Icing: Touch Icing, No-Touch Icing, and Hybrid Icing

Over the years, different variations of icing have been implemented to address safety concerns and improve the flow of the game. Let’s take a closer look at these variations:

  • Touch Icing: In touch icing, a player from the opposing team, other than the goaltender, must touch the puck to cause a stoppage of play. If the goaltender or a player from the team that iced the puck touches it first, icing is waved off, and play continues. Touch icing often leads to high-speed races for the puck, adding excitement and intensity to the game.
  • No-Touch or Automatic Icing: In no-touch or automatic icing, play is stopped for icing as soon as the puck crosses the goal line. This variation eliminates the need for a player from the opposing team to touch the puck, ensuring a quick and decisive stoppage.
  • Hybrid Icing: Hybrid icing combines elements of touch icing and no-touch icing. Instead of racing all the way across the goal line to touch the puck, players compete to reach the faceoff dot first after the puck crosses the goal line. The linesman judges which player is likely to touch the puck first, determining whether icing is called or waved off. Hybrid icing strikes a balance between player safety and maintaining the flow of the game.

5. The History of the Icing Rule

The icing rule has a rich history, with various modifications and amendments made over the years. Let’s delve into the evolution of the icing rule:

  • The National Hockey League (NHL) introduced the icing rule in September 1937 to address the issue of teams using delaying tactics to protect a lead. Prior to this rule, teams would frequently shoot the puck down the ice to waste time, frustrating spectators and opposing teams.
  • The rule was further amended in June 1951 to nullify icing if the goaltender touched the puck, recognizing the goaltender’s involvement in the play.
  • In the 1990-91 season, the NHL amended the rule again, stating that icing was nullified if the puck passed through or touched the goal crease when the goaltender had been removed for an extra attacker. This change aimed to encourage teams to take more risks and engage in offensive play.
  • A third amendment to the icing rule allowed the goaltender to nullify icing by moving toward the puck as it approached the goal line. This change added another layer of strategy and prevented goaltenders from exploiting the rule.
  • The World Hockey Association (WHA) never adopted the NHL’s shorthanded icing rule, which allows shorthanded teams to ice the puck without incurring a penalty. In 2009, USA Hockey considered eliminating the shorthanded icing rule but ultimately retained it.
  • The NHL introduced a significant modification to the icing rule following the 2004-05 lockout. Starting from the 2005-06 season, the team that iced the puck was not allowed to make a line change, except to replace an injured player, after the play was whistled down. This change aimed to discourage teams from using icing as a defensive tactic and to maintain a fast-paced game.
  • In 2013, the NHL implemented hybrid icing to reduce the risk of collisions and injuries during icing situations. This change required linesmen to judge whether the defending player or the attacking player would reach the faceoff dot first after the puck crossed the goal line. Hybrid icing has been successfully adopted by various leagues worldwide.
  • USA Hockey eliminated the shorthanded icing exception in 2017, ensuring that a subsequent icing infraction is enforced when a shorthanded team ices the puck. This change aimed to promote fairness and prevent teams from exploiting the shorthanded icing rule.
  • In the 2017-18 NHL season, teams were no longer allowed to take a timeout after an icing, further minimizing game delays and encouraging continuous play.
  • The 2019-20 NHL season introduced a rule change that allowed the offensive team to decide at which end zone dot they wished the faceoff to be held following an icing. This change aimed to grant a positional advantage to teams stronger on a certain side.

6. Icing and Strategic Gameplay

Icing plays a crucial role in strategic gameplay and can significantly impact the outcome of a game. Let’s explore how teams utilize icing to their advantage:

  • Defensive Strategy: For the defending team, icing provides an opportunity to disrupt the opposing team’s attack and regain control of the game. By shooting the puck down the ice, the defending team can force a stoppage in play, allowing them to regroup and reposition themselves defensively. This strategic move can help alleviate pressure and prevent the opposing team from scoring.
  • Offensive Strategy: While icing is generally seen as a defensive strategy, it can also be employed as an offensive tactic. If a player from the team shooting the puck down the ice reaches it first after it crosses the opposing team’s goal line, the play continues, providing the offensive team with a potential scoring advantage. This scenario often results in an exciting race for the puck, adding intensity and unpredictability to the game.
  • Goaltender’s Role: The role of the goaltender in icing situations is crucial. If the goaltender leaves their crease and touches the puck before it crosses the goal line, icing is nullified. By actively participating in the play, the goaltender can prevent their team from incurring an icing infraction and potentially initiate a quick counterattack.
  • Gaining the Red Line: The concept of gaining the red line is closely related to icing in hockey. Once a player gains the red line, they can shoot the puck into the opposing team’s defensive zone. This strategic move allows the team to establish an offensive forecheck or make a line change without giving away scoring chances. Players often put in extra effort to reach the red line and execute this strategic maneuver effectively.

7. Icing in Recreational Leagues

In recreational leagues, the icing rule is usually called automatically when the puck crosses the goal line. This simplified approach ensures consistency and fairness in recreational play. While the nuances and exceptions of icing may not be as strictly enforced in recreational leagues, the basic principle of preventing intentional delays remains intact.

8. Icing: A Key Element of Ice Hockey

Icing is a fundamental rule in ice hockey that adds excitement, strategy, and competitiveness to the game. By penalizing teams for shooting the puck down the ice without any other player touching it, icing encourages active gameplay and prevents unnecessary delays. The variations and exceptions to the icing rule ensure fairness and player safety while maintaining the flow of the game.

9. Conclusion

Understanding icing is essential for both seasoned hockey fans and newcomers to the sport. This comprehensive guide has provided insights into the purpose, variations, exceptions, and history of the icing rule. From its introduction to address delaying tactics to the implementation of hybrid icing for player safety, icing has evolved to shape the modern game of ice hockey.

Next time you watch a hockey game, pay attention to how teams utilize icing as a strategic tool. Whether it’s to disrupt the opposing team’s attack or create an offensive advantage, icing plays a significant role in the ebb and flow of the game. Let the excitement of icing add another layer of enjoyment to your ice hockey experience.