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I feel like I have a good grasp of hybrid icing in the NHL, but every couple of games I notice what looks to be a missed icing call.

  • The defensive team gains possession of the puck in their own zone.
  • Both teams immediately begin changing some players (benches are on each team's defensive side of the rink), as one defensive player slowly carries the puck into the neutral zone.
  • Two opposing defensemen -- slowly retreating, anticipating a trip to the bench -- have left a small lane for the player to carry the puck just past the center line, but the defensive player does not take it.
  • While between his team's blue line and the center line, the defensive player clears the puck past the opposing defensemen to the opposing goal line, but not directly at the goal. The puck leaves his stick at least 3 feet before the center line.
  • The opposing team will clearly be the next to touch the puck.
  • All skaters are now changing or have just come onto the ice. Fresh opposing defensemen skate back to their goal to retrieve the puck.
  • The opposing goalie may or may not come out to play the puck, but it was apparent before this fact that icing would not be called.

Since the puck crosses the center line and goal line, and no players touch the puck before it crosses the goal line, I always expect an icing call. The body language of the players on the ice indicates that they know it won't be called for icing, so the goalie's choice to come out and play it does not seem to be a factor.

Is icing called off when both teams are substituting, even if the cleared puck meets all criteria of an icing?

Otherwise, are the officials missing an occasional icing call, or do they allow the puck to be released less than some distance (like 5 feet) behind the center line when possession is clearly being exchanged for a full change? The defensive player is trending toward his bench as he clears it, so he knows it won't be called. I'm wondering if this has something to do with bench location, as I only see this play when the bench is on the defense's side.

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To be clear: player substitution does not affect any determination of icing. Neither does the location of the bench.

In the situations you are describing, it is most likely that the official does not have a clear enough view of the location of the release of the puck to make a sound determination of icing, so he lets play continue.

Keep in mind, what you see is going to be very different from what the official sees. From a broadcast camera angle, or line of sight from the stands, it might look like the puck is leaving the offensive defenseman's stick 3 feet from the center line. To an official, who's likely in motion, avoiding collisions with players, and looking from a much lower angle, things might not be so obvious.

While the rule specifies that "gaining the line" is achieved by the puck, not the player's skate, I have observed that officials generally give the benefit of non-icing if it appears that the player is making effort to gain the line with body position as much as with the puck itself.

See NHL Rule 81 or USA Hockey Rule 624.

Conversely, a determination of icing DOES affect player substitution: if icing is called, the violating team is not allowed to make any player substitutions prior to the ensuing faceoff.

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