When a player is offsides in ice hockey, they can tag up by skating back to the blue line and having at least one skate in contact with the blue line, and then return back into the zone to continue play without off sides being called (assuming the league they are in allows delayed offsides). At least, this is how I've always played it in the leagues I've been in.

However, in reading up on some of the off-sides refereeing scenarios on USAHockey, I came across this description of what constitutes the zone (1st scenario on the page):

If the puck moves from the Neutral Zone into a team’s Attacking Zone, the edge of the blue line closer to the Attacking Zone is the determining edge. Until the puck completely crosses the blue line, the 12 inch width of the blue line is a part of the Neutral Zone. However, the instant the puck completely crosses the blue line, the determining edge is reversed and the width of the blue line becomes a part of the Attacking Zone.

To paraphrase, the blue line is part of the neutral zone until the puck crosses into the attacking zone, at which point the blue line is now part of the attacking zone.

That seems to contradict the 'tag up' rule which, to me, should require the user to get at least one skate beyond the blue line since that is now technically what constitutes the edge of the neutral zone.

Am I misunderstanding the tag-up requirements, or is this simply a slight contradiction in the logic of off sides rules and simply "is what it is"?

  • I think the confusion is that you are referencing a rule or interpretation that discusses whether a puck is considered to be inside the offensive zone or not. Whether a player is considered "on-side" is a different consideration and does not change - there must be some portion of them touching the ice not inside the inside edge of the blue line. Jun 12, 2017 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


Every time the puck goes completely through the blue line the zone changes by 12 inches. Once the puck is cleared or mishandled and goes completely through the blue line back into the neutral zone, then everyone needs to tag up to only touching the blue line, because the defining line reverses so that whole blue line is part of the neutral zone again. To contradict the comments above, just the act of touching the blue line is indeed leaving the attacking zone. Where everyone is getting caught up is they are thinking of the blue line as a whole, whereas the rulebook refers to the 2 edges of the blue line. Simply put, the blue line is part of whichever zone the puck is in, except in the case of delayed offsides where the entirety of the blue line is still considered neutral zone. Once everyone tags up, the defining edge of the zone reverses and the entirety of the blue line is the attacking zone. The rule can be hard to understand, and I suppose it could be simplified by just making the blue line 1 inch thick.

  • That's a great way to explain it! I think my hang up was thinking that while puck was in the attacking zone, indeed, neutral zone would not have included the blue line. But when 'tagging up' that means the puck would have had to enter the neutral zone at some point thereby making the blue line part of the neutral zone again for tag-up purposes.
    – DA.
    Jun 4, 2017 at 4:45
  • But can't you tag up without the puck leaving the attacking zone?
    – maw269
    Nov 28, 2018 at 3:34
  • I thought the blue line is "part of whichever zone the puck is in" but only for the puck. For the puck, the attacking zone and neutral zone "resize" when the puck changes zone. For players, the attacking zone never changes, so the blue line is always neutral zone for players, and simply touching the blue line implies being onside.
    – Victor
    Feb 16, 2022 at 19:27

In the 2005/06 season, the NHL updated the offside rule saying. "To allow more continuous play and to increase pressure on the defending team, an attacking player who proceeds the puck into the offensive zone will NOT be considered offside if he returns to the blue line and makes skate contact with it--thus--tagging up before resuming the attack on the forecheck"

Hope this helps!

  • I understand that part. What I'm trying to reconcile is the fact that in that situation, you're not technically exiting the zone as the line is part of the zone. I assume it's just a logic error in the rules but was wondering if there was more to it than that.
    – DA.
    Jan 23, 2016 at 0:41
  • Oh, if that's the case I am sorry I can't help you there. :)
    – Jaden F
    Jan 23, 2016 at 1:12
  • The thing you are getting hung up on is what constitutes "the zone" when the rule defines play differently than you are interpreting. @doggy5853 is correct and so are you in your definition of the zone and touching up. The rule for touching up doesn't say you must leave the zone it only mentions players who have preceded the puck must come back to make contact with the blue line. I agree it could be a logical contradiction in that one should have to leave the zone if they were offsides but the rule is such that they only have to get within the 12 inch blue line to negate the offside call.
    – Parker McA
    Apr 26, 2017 at 17:10
  • @ParkerMcA sorry for the late follow-up. I think your comment is actually a good answer!...'tagging up' does not mean exiting the zone...merely touching the blue line.
    – DA.
    May 23, 2017 at 19:25

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