When you are learning to play hockey as a beginner, there are a lot of rules to remember. Besides offsides, hockey icing may be one of the most important rules you will need to know before your first game.

What is icing in hockey?

There are 5 major lines on a hockey rink:

  • 2 goal lines (red)
  • 2 blue line (blue)
  • 1 center line (red)

Icing in hockey is when a player hits the puck from behind the center line toward their offensive zone. It becomes icing when the puck crosses both the center line and the goal line without being touched by any other player (including the goalie).

Where is the face-off in icing?

When icing happens in hockey, play will be stopped and a face-off will happen at the end zone in the defensive zone of the team who caused the icing. The reason for this is a player who ices the puck should not be given any advantage on the ice.

There are a few exceptions to the face-off locations: one of them is if a team ices the puck while on a delayed penalty (meaning, the opposing team has caused a penalty but does not possess the puck, so play has not yet been stopped). If this happens, then when play is stopped, the face-off will be at a neutral zone face-off spot closest to the defending zone of the team who iced the puck.

When icing should not be called

Icing ends or does not exist when:

  • The team who ices the puck is on a penalty kill — meaning, they are shorthanded on the ice. The puck must be shot before the penalty ends otherwise it will result in icing.
  • The puck is shot by a defensive player behind the center line but hits any player or anything they are wearing or holding between the center line and goal line.
  • The puck is shot by a defensive player behind the center line but hits a defensive player (or anything they are wearing or holding) at any time before reaching the goal line.
  • The puck travels between the center line and end line, but does so as a result of a face-off.
  • The linesman or official decides that an opposing player has the opportunity to play the puck before it crosses the goal line — but they chose not to.

Official’s icing calls

The last bullet point means that it is the official’s determination whether to call icing or not. If they feel players were not making an effort to make it to the puck, they can waive off icing at any time.

When icing is called in error

If an official makes a mistake when calling icing the puck, the face-off will happen at the end zone face-off spot closest to the location where the puck was when play was stopped.

USA Hockey icing calls

The above rules are from the USA Hockey rulebook (2021-2025), which means if you play Hockey Canada, youth, college, or NHL, the rules may be very different. For instance, in other leagues, icing will not be called until players reach a certain point on the ice.

But for the purpose of these instructions, assume you are playing in a USA Hockey adult recreational league.

What is hockey icing?

If you are beginning your adult hockey career, icing is an important rule to understand. The basics of hockey are so important to growing your hockey knowledge, so starting with the simple rules like hockey icing will give you a good foundation for becoming the best player you can be.