Each week we will be taking a look at the rules and regulations of this great game that we call hockey.
One of the more common occurrences in any given hockey game is a team icing the puck. There could be up to seven or eight or even more icings called over the course of a game. But just what is icing?
According to the American Hockey League Official Rules book:
Rule 82.1 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.
Essentially, icing is when a player shoots the puck across both the center red line and the opposing team’s goal line, and the puck remains untouched all the way. A main exception to this rule is if the team is on the penalty kill, in which case they can ice the puck without consequence. In the NHL and the AHL, icing will only be called if and when a player on the opposite team goes back into their defensive zone and touches the puck. This has occasionally led to races to try and touch the puck, and has caused unfortunate collisions and injuries. This has led the NHL and AHL to experiment with “hybrid” icing which is a compromise between regular icing and no-touch icing which is present in other minor leagues/junior leagues and college. In “hybrid” icing, instead of having to touch the puck, the players race to the faceoff circle. If the first one to arrive is on the opposite team, the play will be blown dead and icing will be called. If a member of the offending team gets to the faceoff circle first, icing will be waved off and play will continue.
The icing rule was passed in September 1937 by the National Hockey League. It was done to eliminate a common delaying tactic used by teams to protect a winning margin. A November 18, 1931 game is cited as one extreme example that led to the ban on the practice. The New York Americans, protecting a 3-2 lead over the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden, iced the puck over 50 times. The crowd became incensed and threw debris onto the ice, causing a delay while the teams were sent to their dressing rooms. When the teams met again that December 3 in New York, the Bruins iced the puck 87 times in a scoreless draw.
The rule was amended in June 1951, whereby if the goaltender touched the puck, the infraction was nullified. For the 1990-91 season, the league amended it to nullify the infraction if the puck passed through or touched the goal crease when the goaltender had been removed for an extra attacker. The rule was later amended by the NHL to nullify icing if the goaltender moved towards the puck as it approached the red line.
After some teams in need of a line change (player substitution) began deliberately icing the puck to stop play, and as part of a group of important rules changes following the 2004–05 NHL lockout, the NHL supplemented the icing rule prior to the 2005-06 season by not allowing the offending team to substitute players before the next faceoff, except to replace an injured player or when the goaltender must return to the net following an icing call. This change was made in an effort to speed up game play by reducing icing infractions, as well as to encourage teams to work the puck up the ice rather than taking the opportunity to rest their players