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The Evolving Rule of Icing in Hockey

Terry Chucas

The recipient of a juris doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Terry Chucas draws upon over 25 years of experience as an attorney in representing children and parents in dependency court appeals. An avid sports fan, Terry Chucas grew up playing hockey and played the sport at a recreational level until he was 45 years old.

From 1937 to 2013, the National Hockey League (NHL) employed a touch-icing rule in which a player on the opposing team was required to race to collect the puck to draw an icing call. The intent of icing is to prevent a team from shooting the puck down the ice when facing trouble in their own zone. Instead, they would have to cross the center red line before dumping the puck into the opposition zone. However, having players from the two teams race to the end boards at full speed presented the risk of injury, so the NHL adopted a hybrid-icing system for the start of the 2013-2014 season.

The hybrid-icing system allows the linesman to whistle the play dead for icing if he believes the puck will cross the opposition goal line and the defending player is ahead in a race to his defensive zone faceoff dots. While the NHL maintains this icing system, USA Hockey recently adopted a slight change to the icing rule for teams at the under-14 level.
In the NHL, teams are allowed to ice the puck without the faceoff coming back in their zone on a penalty kill. However, USA Hockey has made it a rule that icing will operate the same on the penalty kill as it would at even-strength play. The idea of the rule is to encourage skill development as, instead of simply shooting the puck outside of the zone, players will be forced to use alternative ways of getting the puck outside of their defensive zone through puck protection and play-making.

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